Mainland Florida Sees Record Flooding; Florida Keys Escape Major Damage

Hurricane Ian made landfall as one of the strongest storms to hit the state on record. Cities like Orlando, Naples and Fort Myers, according to The Weather Channel, saw record levels of storm surge or rainfall and it could take a while to the flooding to subside.

The storm is now classified as a tropical storm, with winds from 30 to 60mph. The Weather Channel adds that while all hurricane warnings have been dropped, a hurricane watch remains in place from Florida’s northeast coast through Charleston County, SC. The National Hurricane Center reports that “life-threatening storm surge” exists in these regions, while hurricane-force winds are expected across South Carolina beginning early Friday. ‘Major-to-record river flooding” will also continue across parts of central and northern Florida.

Lee County—home to Fort Myers and Cape Coral—is engaged in search and rescue efforts; assessing damage to roads, bridges and infrastructure; and intensifying other response and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Ian. The Sanibel Causeway, which connects Sanibel and Captiva islands to Florida’s mainland, has been washed out. In Orlando, Walt Disney World theme parks, as well as Disney Springs are temporarily closed on Thursday, September 29. Similarly, Universal Orlando Resort has closed Thursday with plans to reopen on Friday, September 30. Halloween Horror Nights have been canceled and CityWalk is also closed for this period.

About a dozen people in southwest and central Florida were reported dead so far due to the storm, CNN reports.

Elsewhere, the Florida Keys & Key West reported that major infrastructure remains intact throughout the 125-mile-long island chain, with Key West International Airport reopening to commercial service Thursday morning.

As far as visitor accommodations, almost all escaped significant storm impact and are open, tourism officials reported. In addition, the Key West International Airport, including all 42 bridges, is open. The most impacted area of the Keys island chain seems to be Key West, where many roads flooded because of storm surge or are impassible due to fallen trees. Water levels are receding and the city’s public information officer said it will take a few days for personnel to finish removing debris from streets. Most primary visitor areas of the city, however, would likely be restored by the end of Thursday.

Keys state parks, attractions, venues, watersports operations, restaurants and bars are reopening, although hours and offerings may be limited. Visitors should contact each venue directly. The Port of Key West is likely to fully reopen by the end of Thursday. In addition, throughout the Keys the freshwater delivery system is fully operational and fewer than 400 of 30,000 people, as of Thursday morning, were awaiting restoration of power.

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