Residents Describe What’s Left of Pine Island as Evacuations Continue – NBC 6 South Florida

Hundreds of people were still being evacuated and leaving their homes in southwest Florida Monday for the first time since Hurricane Ian made landfall.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been evacuating and assisting hundreds of people stranded on Pine Island, about 30 minutes from Fort Myers, since Ian made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday.

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.

“It’s a mess, it’s a mess over there but we have a really really strong community, I think people are going to be really surprised at how quickly the islanders are trying to get stuff back together with the help of everybody else,” said resident Rhea Jennings, who chose not to evacuate. “We’ve lived on the island for 25 years and it’s definitely the worst storm we’ve ever seen.”

The island has been crippled since Ian’s landfall on Wednesday on nearby Cayo Costa.

Hurricane Ian roared ashore and left a huge trail of destruction in southwest Florida and now rescue efforts continue to help those in need. NBC 6’s Heather Walker reports.

Many residents didn’t evacuate, deciding to stay and ride out the storm.

“A little tough. Yeah, with everything down like it was, not having electric or anything, it was still tough,” said one man who was rescued Monday.

The Coast Guard set up rescue operations with three teams using 12 flood response boats. So far, more than 400 people – elderly, women, children and even pets – have been quickly shuttled from the island to the mainland.

“This is why we join the Coast Guard, we’re a humanitarian service, this is what we enjoy to do, helping people for the greater good,” one rescue worker said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said crews were working to make some sort of road access to the island, possibly by the end of the week.

Residents wre confident it won’t be long until they return

“Everybody’s kinda helping each other out too. I mean I can’t express how much the community has pulled together over there, everybody going to their neighbor’s, asking if they made anything,” Jennings said. “It’s really amazing.”

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