LEE COUNTY, Fla. (WGHP) — Reports of deaths in the wake of Hurricane Ian are still unverified as rescue teams hope for good news.
Thursday morning, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marcenosaid on “Good Morning America,” according to Fox News, “We have fatalities in the hundreds.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis clarified Lee’s comment during a Thursday morning news conference
“That number that was put out by Lee was basically an estimate of, ‘Hey, these people were calling. The water was rising on their home. They may not have ended up getting through,’ so we’re obviously hoping that they can be rescued at this point,” DeSantis said.
The governor says “hundreds of fatalities” have not been confirmed. Teams will be checking on people who may have called 911 during the storm to see if they need any help or if rescues are necessary.
DeSantis said they believe two people died during the storm, but it is currently unclear whether or not those two deaths are directly linked to the storm.
Florida Emergency Management has not yet issued a formal announcement on injuries or lives lost during the storm.
“This is a life-changing event for all of us. We tracked that storm up the coast of Florida. It was very unpredictable,” Marceno said, according to GMA.
Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa, Florida, an island that is part of Lee County, as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph.
“We know it can be difficult to contact family and loved ones following Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Southwest Florida,” the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook. “Many residents are currently without power and unable to communicate. As long as the area is accessible, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office can dispatch deputies to check on residents and ensure they are safe.
“To request a well-being check, call the Lee County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number at 239-477-1000. PLEASE ONLY CALL 911 FOR EMERGENCIES.”
The storm brought down power for millions, with more than 2.5 million still without power by Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.us. Lee faced the most outages with more than 420,000, just under 90% of customers tracked.
North Port, a city in Sarasota County, shared a statement Wednesday, “Today, our community experienced a storm of unprecedented magnitude. We know many of you are scared, but we are all in this together.”
The city put into place a boil water notice and a curfew.
As of 5 a.m. Thursday, Ian was 40 miles southeast of Orlando, Florida, and 35 miles southwest of Cape Canaveral, Florida, having weakened to a tropical storm. The storm is moving northeast at 8 mph with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph.
Forecasters believe the storm will move off of Florida’s Atlantic coast on Thursday before approaching South Carolina’s coast and picking up speed on Friday.
While the storm has lost some power as it cut through Florida, it is expected to pick up strength before hitting the Carolinas. The National Hurricane Center warns that Ian could be near hurricane strength as it approaches South Carolina.