Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state is investigating two deaths that could be linked to Hurricane Ian.
“We don’t know that they’re linked to the storm, but our assumption is it likely is,” he said at a briefing Thursday morning, adding that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will make that assessment.
The fatalities were announced after Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno told “Good Morning America” Thursday that the county received thousands of 911 calls and people became trapped. He said there were fatalities.
At least one storm-related death has been confirmed in Volusia County. The sheriff said a 72-year-old man died after he went outside during the storm to drain his pool and he ended up unresponsive in a canal behind his home.
Southwest Florida, DeSantis said, was significantly damaged from the storm, particularly Charlotte and Lee counties, which are now “basically off the grid.” Southwest Florida had more than 2 million power outages alone as of Thursday morning.
“The Charlotte and Lee reconnects are really likely going to likely have to be rebuilding of that infrastructure,” he said, adding that linemen and crews are on their way but that it’s going to “be more than just connecting a power line back to a pole.”
Ian downgraded to a tropical storm overnight, but DeSantis said that doesn’t mean the impacts are over. Central Florida, particularly Orange and Seminole counties, could see major flooding on Thursday.
“The amount of water that’s been rising and will likely continue to rise today, even as the storm is passing, is basically a 500-year flood event,” Desantis said.
“The impacts of this storm are historic and the damage that was done has been historic – and this is just off initial assessments,” DeSantis said. “We’ve never seen a flood event like this. We’ve never seen storm surge of this magnitude.”
He said it’s going to take “years of effort” to recover.