NORTH PORT, Fla. (WFLA) – The flood water that has been inundating the City of North Port for days now since Hurricane Ian is finally starting to recede. Officials say more than 800 people have been rescued from their homes since the storm and they are still evacuating people as necessary, as of Monday.
“We actually had a back up of 500 emergency calls that had to be put in the queue. We have cleared all of those calls, so we have no calls pending and we are caught up in terms of all of our emergency responses,” North Port Emergency Manager Michael Ryan said. “We have seen flooded areas that we have never seen before, so yes, this was a catastrophic, historic event for the city. We have seen water levels eight, nine, 10 feet above street level.”
At Tarpon Point Grill and Marina, which sits along the Myakka River, the damage is widespread. The business had a massive sign out front which is now face down in the parking lot, recently-installed tiki huts were washed away during the storm, and what was a glass-enclosed patio is now open to the elements.
“It’s surreal. It is like it is not even real yet. Honestly, it makes me want to cry. I love this place. You look at everything you’ve worked really hard for between your work, which is my second home, and then my own house, it is destroyed,” said Assistant General Manager Sierra Couture.
Some of Couture’s staff members have lost everything as a result of Hurricane Ian.
“She lost her entire home, everything is underwater. It was really sad to hear because they were in the house, they didn’t evacuate, and her daughter was saying that they were going to drown because the whole house was filling up with water,” Couture said with tears in her eyes. “Luckily they did get out, but she has lost everything, so we are definitely looking for different things to donate to her and everybody in the community. It is really hard.”
Through all of the devastation and destruction, the community is coming together, lending a helping hand to those in need. We’ve seen residents rescuing loved ones and strangers trapped in their homes. At San Pedro Catholic Church, volunteers are working alongside officials with the Florida National Guard distributing food, water, and ice to those who need it.
“That has been invaluable for people just trying make it day by day right now and get enough supplies for today,” Father Nate Marzonie said. “There have been so many people with tragic situations, but also so many people showing heroic efforts. People who have lost everything kind of trying to share their last can of goods or their last meal or offer whatever they help to their neighbors. It has been very touching and really humbling to see people who are in such a desperate need, such desperate straits, offering whatever they have and they are trying to help their neighbors.”
Residents who are trapped in their homes and have run out of supplies are being urged to evacuate.
“A lot of our residents have been asking for supplies. We want to share with them that if they don’t have any supplies to keep them going, we ask that they contact us and we will evacuate them. We just do not have the capability to deliver supplies to them on a regular basis. We will evacuate them so they will have access to get their supplies,” said Ryan.
City officials say five fatalities have been reported since the storm moved through the area. Those deaths, however, remain under investigation.