in Naples, Florida, on Wednesday afternoon, Lauren Barlow watched as water crept in through her home’s door and began rising across the first floor.
“Cars are floating down our street,” Barlow, who was sheltering on the upper level of the house, told CNN. “Our garage completely flooded, frying our cars. The water then started to go through the door inside and is now quickly rising up the steps flooding the first floor.”
Nearby, the city’s fire rescue authorities posted a video on Facebook Wednesday evening walking through cold, chest-deep water as they rescued an individual from the rushing waters.
Hurricane Ian, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm a little after 3 pm Wednesday along Florida’s southwestern coast, has been battering coastal communities for hours. Its ferocious winds are blowing away debris, ripping down trees, setting off alarms and knocking out power lines. The life-threatening storm arises that forecasters have warned of has flooded homes and neighborhoods and already pushed water levels in some areas to record highs. Waters in Fort Myers are higher than they’ve ever been observed since officials began recording measurements in 1965.
John Iverson, a Fort Myers resident, told CNN on Wednesday he would have evacuated if he realized just how hard the area would be hit. Iverson was taking shelter at a friend’s house Wednesday afternoon, but even there, the first floor was mostly under water, he told CNN. The cars in the home’s garage and the cars in his friend’s front yard were completely submerged too, he said.
Iverson added the house he was taking shelter in at multiple levels, so he is able to stay dry.
Marcel Chartier, a manager at DiamondHead Beach Resort, was taking shelter at the hotel Wednesday evening as the storm pummeled the Fort Myers area, sweeping away cars and everything else in its path. Across the street, an entire building was almost entirely under water, Chartier told CNN.
“Winds are extremely strong, we can’t see anything out of the windows,” Chartier said. “The water is very high and approaching the roof of the building across the street.”
Local and state officials earlier this week issued mandatory evacuations for more than 1.75 million people across several southwestern counties including Lee, Pinellas, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties. For those who behind stayed, local authorities warned the best practice was to shelter in place, and not venture out.
Across Florida, more than 1.3 million people were without power Wednesday evening as the storm roared through the state, according to Poweroutage.us.