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US: Pine Island residents recount horror, fear as Ian bore down

Residents trapped, 911 down as Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida

  Residents trapped, 911 down as Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida Residents are trapped by water in homes and streets are unrecognizable, underwater as Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida on, Wednesday afternoon, crashing into the coast with sustained wind of 155 mph. 1/3 SLIDES © the Naples Police Department The scene in Naples, Fla., near where Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday afternoon with sustained winds of 150 mph and a 12- to 18-foot storm surge. Photo courtesy of the Naples Police Department 2/3 SLIDES © NOAA/UPI A satellite image shows Hurricane Ian Tuesday off the coast of Key West, Florida.

PINE ISLAND, Fla. (AP) — Paramedics and volunteers with a group that rescues people after natural disasters went door to door Saturday on Florida's devastated Pine Island, offering to evacuate residents who spoke of the terror of riding out Hurricane Ian in flooded homes and howling winds.

Helen Koch, a dog breeder, is evacuated with some of her 17 dogs on a helicopter for mediccorps.org, who arrived with two helicopters, paramedics and volunteers, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) © Provided by Associated Press Helen Koch, a dog breeder, is evacuated with some of her 17 dogs on a helicopter for mediccorps.org, who arrived with two helicopters, paramedics and volunteers, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The largest barrier island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, Pine Island has been largely cut off from the outside world. Ian heavily damaged the only bridge to the island, leaving it only reachable by boat or air. For many, the volunteers from the non-profit Medic Corps were the first people they have seen from outside the island in days.

Buildings leveled. Homes underwater. Fort Myers Beach 'is gone' after Hurricane Ian damage.

  Buildings leveled. Homes underwater. Fort Myers Beach 'is gone' after Hurricane Ian damage. A chunk of the causeway connecting Sanibel Island to Florida's mainland had fallen into the sea Wednesday, cutting off access to the barrier island.She watched her neighbors wade to and from their homes, hoping to salvage something from the wreckage. She wondered how her home in the nearby Iona Ranch mobile home had fared after Hurricane Ian, but knew the devastation likely took it as well.

Residents described the horror of being trapped in their homes as water kept rising. Joe Conforti became emotional as he recounted what happened, saying the water rose at least 8 to 10 feet (2.4-3 meters), and there were 4-foot (1.2-meter) waves in the streets.

CORRECTS FIRST NAME TO PAUL, INSTEAD OF TOM - Members of mediccorps.org, who arrived with two helicopters, paramedics and volunteers, help evacuate Paul Koch and some of his dogs, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) © Provided by Associated Press CORRECTS FIRST NAME TO PAUL, INSTEAD OF TOM - Members of mediccorps.org, who arrived with two helicopters, paramedics and volunteers, help evacuate Paul Koch and some of his dogs, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

“The water just kept pounding the house and we watched, boats, houses — we watched everything just go flying by,” he said, as he fought back tears. “We’ve lost so much at this point.”

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Conforti said if it wasn't for his wife, Dawn Conforti, he wouldn't have made it. He said: “I started to lose sensibility, because when the water’s at your door and it’s splashing on the door and you’re seeing how fast it’s moving, there’s no way you’re going to survive that.”

The bridge leading from Fort Myers to Pine Island, Fla., is heavily damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Due to the damage, the island can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) © Provided by Associated Press The bridge leading from Fort Myers to Pine Island, Fla., is heavily damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Due to the damage, the island can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

He said his wife had them get on top of a table to keep from getting swept away by the water. The next day, he said, they brought food to an older gentleman who lived on the next block, and they made sure to get him off the island on the first available boat.

“He lost everything,” Joe Conforti said of the man. “He said that if we didn’t bring him the food, he was going to take his life that night because it was so bad.”

Hurricane Ian death toll rises to 54 in Florida, 4 in North Carolina

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Some residents shed tears as Medic Corps volunteers came to their doors and asked if they wanted to be evacuated on Saturday. Some declined the offer for now and asked for another day to pack their belongings. But others were anxious to get away immediately.

Helen Koch blew her husband a kiss and mouthed the words “I love you” as she sat inside the Medic Corps helicopter that lifted her and seven of the couple’s 17 dogs to safety from the decimated island. The dogs were in cages, strapped to the outside of the helicopter as it took off.

The bridge leading from Fort Myers to Pine Island, Fla., is seen heavily damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Due to the damage, the island can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) © Provided by Associated Press The bridge leading from Fort Myers to Pine Island, Fla., is seen heavily damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Due to the damage, the island can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Her husband, Paul Koch, stayed behind with the other dogs, and planned to leave the isolated island on a second trip. He told The Associated Press that days earlier, he didn't think they would make it, as the major hurricane raged and the house began taking on water.

Road to recovery: Temporary bridge restores lifeline to Florida's Pine Island cut off by Hurricane Ian

  Road to recovery: Temporary bridge restores lifeline to Florida's Pine Island cut off by Hurricane Ian Hurricane Ian destroyed a vital bridge to Pine Island when the Category 4 storm roared ashore last week, bringing with it a deadly storm surge, torrential rain and powerful winds. In true "Florida Strong" fashion, crews got to work and quickly completed a temporary bridge to the island that will provide a much-needed lifeline to residents that have been stranded since the historic storm made landfall. © Florida Department of Transportation The Florida Department of Transportation completed construction of a bridge leading to Pine Island in just three days after Hurricane Ian destroyed it last week.

CORRECTS FIRST NAME TO BRIA, INSTEAD OF MARIA - Members of mediccorps.org help evacuate Bria Acerbo in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The group arrived on the island with two helicopters, paramedics and volunteers, as the only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so the only access is by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) © Provided by Associated Press CORRECTS FIRST NAME TO BRIA, INSTEAD OF MARIA - Members of mediccorps.org help evacuate Bria Acerbo in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The group arrived on the island with two helicopters, paramedics and volunteers, as the only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so the only access is by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Pine Island has long been known for its quiet, small-town atmosphere and mangrove trees. It's a popular destination for fishing, kayaking and canoeing. Now, bleak scenes of destruction are everywhere in this shattered paradise.

Houses have been reduced to splinters and boats have been tossed onto roadways. The island has no power, and no running water – save for a few hours on Friday when one resident said they were able to take a shower. A community of mobile homes was destroyed.

Helen Koch, a dog breeder, blows a kiss to her husband as she is evacuated with some of her 17 dogs on a helicopter for mediccorps.org, who arrived with two helicopters, paramedics and volunteers, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) © Provided by Associated Press Helen Koch, a dog breeder, blows a kiss to her husband as she is evacuated with some of her 17 dogs on a helicopter for mediccorps.org, who arrived with two helicopters, paramedics and volunteers, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Medic Corps volunteers went to one house to search for a woman who was known to have stayed behind during the storm and has had no contact with her friends since. Inside the woman’s house, heavy furniture had been toppled over and her belongings were tossed about. There was no sign of the woman, raising fears she had been sucked out of her home by the storm surge.

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Jean Rose helps her father, Ed Leaffer, evacuate in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) © Provided by Associated Press Jean Rose helps her father, Ed Leaffer, evacuate in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Linda Hanshaw said the tight-knit island community is amazing and “everyone I know who hasn’t left is trying to leave.”

But that wasn’t true for everyone. Kathleen Russell was trying to persuade her elderly husband to leave, but he didn’t want to budge just yet. The couple kept declining offers to evacuate. The couple said they were not ready, but might be willing to leave on Sunday.

Claire St. Leger said she had nine people in her house, including neighbors, as the storm came in.

Members of mediccorps.org, which arrived on Pine Island, Fla., with two helicopters, paramedics and volunteers, searches for residents who want to evacuate in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) © Provided by Associated Press Members of mediccorps.org, which arrived on Pine Island, Fla., with two helicopters, paramedics and volunteers, searches for residents who want to evacuate in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

“I thought for sure we were all dying,” she said. “I just sat in an inside room with pillows, I crossed myself so many times, I thought for sure we were dying. Water kept rising.”

Medic Corps is a nonprofit group of pilots, paramedics, doctors, a Navy SEAL and other volunteers that responds to natural disasters and gets people to safety. According to the organization’s website, it began in 2013 in response to Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines and in 2017 it began deploying aircraft and responders to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Historic homes may prove to be more resilient against floods

  Historic homes may prove to be more resilient against floods SUFFOLK, Va. (AP) — Whenever historic homes get flooded, building contractors often feel compelled by government regulations to rip out the water-logged wood flooring, tear down the old plaster walls and install new, flood-resistant materials. It’s a hurried approach that's likely to occur across southwest Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian. But restorers Paige Pollard and Kerry Shackelford say they know something that science is yet to prove: historic building materials can often withstand repeated soakings.

Alia Kerr, a member of mediccorps.org, which arrived on Pine Island, Fla., with two helicopters, paramedics and volunteers, searches for residents who want to evacuate in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) © Provided by Associated Press Alia Kerr, a member of mediccorps.org, which arrived on Pine Island, Fla., with two helicopters, paramedics and volunteers, searches for residents who want to evacuate in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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Forliti reported from Minneapolis.

Ian leaves scenes of recovery, despair on Florida coast .
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Just days after Hurricane Ian struck, a crowd of locals gathered under a huge banyan tree at a motel's outdoor tiki bar for drink specials and live music. Less than 10 miles away, crews were finishing the search for bodies on a coastal barrier island. Even closer, entire families were trying to get comfortable for the night in a mass shelter housing more than 500 storm victims. On a coast where a few miles meant the difference between life and death, relief and ruin, the contrasting scenes of reality less than two weeks since the hurricane's onslaught are jarring, and they point to the way disaster can mean so many different things to different people.

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