NORTH PORT, Fla. (WFLA) — Southwest Florida communities like North Port are still cleaning up damage from Hurricane Ian, five months after the storm devastated the region.
The city sits just 25 miles from where the center of Ian’s eye made landfall. The storm battered the coast for hours on end, with its surge forcing water and debris into the Myakka river as it trudged inland.
Residents of the riverside Harbor Cove neighborhood are still picking up the pieces of their community to this day. They told News Channel 8 over 200 homes were destroyed by the hurricane last year, while even more suffered significant damage.
Earlier this week, environmental groups and community members called for volunteers to help them clear debris from canals in the area on Saturday. They urged them to bring kayaks and small boats to help navigate hard-to-reach areas.
Around 150 volunteers gathered along Imperial Drive on Saturday morning. They spent five hours pulling junk like styrofoam and chunks of peoples’ roofs from the water. They removed metal that was snarled in the surrounding mangroves, which are a critical habitat for wildlife.
“There is a danger to people and wildlife with the type of debris that is in there,” said Ronda Ryan, Executive Director of Sarasota Bay Watch. “This has been an area that has been protected and pristine for many years, and we just want to try to get that out of there.”
Sarasota Bay Watch said volunteers filled five 40-yard dumpsters and three 16-yard dumpsters, marking one of their most successful cleanup events. They said people from across the Tampa Bay area answered the call to help.
“It has to take people that are interested in making a difference,” Ryan said. “One thing that I have heard over and over is ‘It could’ve been us. It could have been us, it should have been us, and so we are going to help them out,’ and that is how this coast survives that type of devastation.”
If you’re interested in helping out at their next cleanup event, visit the Sarasota Bay Watch website.