In Fort Myers, Black Residents Fear Hurricane Aid Will Bypass Their Neighborhoods (2023)

Editor’s note: Following Capital B’s story, Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Jaclyn Rothenberg tweeted on October 3 that the agency is providing resources to the Dunbar neighborhood. “We are aware of the needs in Dunbar and sent teams to the area yesterday. Our @FEMA disaster survivor assistance teams are going door to door again today in the community.”

FORT MYERS, Fla. —The gray clouds, torrential rain, and 155 mph winds that were unleashed on this city Wednesday had passed. By the following afternoon, Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the U.S., was sitting in the Atlantic Ocean.

But the remnants of the storm’s wrath remained. Roofs were in tatters, decades-old trees were toppled, concrete walkways were ripped from the ground.

Arkeisha Reese held the ladder steady against her house as her 24-year-old son wobbled onto what was left of their roof.

“Give me the screwdriver,” he called down.

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(Video) Devastating aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers Beach.

Reese had evacuated to Orlando before Ian arrived. When she returned to her home of four years, half of the roof had caved in. Underneath, the storm had torn her television off the wall and destroyed her clothes. She’ll need a new closet — and a new roof. For now, they were covering the gaping hole with a tarp.

“Should I go higher?” her son asked, questioning how far he could inch toward the hole without falling through.

“I don’t know. How are you feeling up there?”

In Fort Myers, Black Residents Fear Hurricane Aid Will Bypass Their Neighborhoods (1)

For residents of Fort Myers’ predominantly Black Dunbar neighborhood, recovering from the near-Category 5 storm will require a lot of do-it-yourself handiwork. They’ll have to wait for insurance companies to start answering calls, power companies to remove dangling power lines that sparked then snapped, and tree companies to deploy with saws and cranes to pry oak branches and palm trees off of the houses they’ve slammed into.

Dunbar sits off the waterfront, east of the railroad tracks that residents say mark the split between mostly white and mostly Black areas. Neighborhoods in Fort Myers remain extremely divided by race, according to federal housing data. The data shows segregation has increased since 2010.

When Ian came ashore Wednesday, bringing storm surges of up to 12 feet, the wealthier, waterfront communities of Florida’s west coast took the brunt of the floodwaters. But it was Ian’s brutal winds that left inland communities like Dunbar wrecked.

More than 2 million Floridians lost power in the hurricane. Neighborhoods have transformed into gasoline deserts where fuel is hard to come by for miles on end. Drinking water is, too.

Lee County, where Fort Myers is located, is under a boil water notice, and 98% of residents have no power.

(Video) ‘We Need Toilets!’: Ali Visits Forgotten Florida Residents Devastated By Hurricane Ian

Now, as Ian has moved north — making a second landfall in South Carolina on Friday — concerns are arising about how aid will be distributed among Florida’s hurricane-ravaged communities.

Across Lee County, the median household income for white families is more than $53,400. For Black families, it drops under $37,300. About 26% of Black families are living in poverty, double the rate for white families. The disparity suggests that recovering from a major natural disaster — which requires significant resources, time, and money —may disproportionately burden Black residents.

In Florida, eight U.S. Army Reserve teams with more than 800 members are performing search and rescues, along with the National Guard and Coast Guard. The state’s emergency response division is deploying diesel, generators, ambulances, tarps, and trucks of food, water, and ice to impacted communities.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the bulk of the emergency response was being ushered to the coast, where boats stacked on top of rubble and homes were completely decimated. In Dunbar, where most homes were still standing, residents worried about food and water supply, the stability of the roofs that still appeared intact, and down power lines.

After hurricanes strike, deaths sometimes occur in the days to follow as a result of such issues.

Stephanie Stephens’ car was trapped in her car port. Behind it was crumbled concrete from the driveway that uprooted when an oak tree — more than 70 years old — tipped over. The tree, now on its side, is still taller than the house.

In Fort Myers, Black Residents Fear Hurricane Aid Will Bypass Their Neighborhoods (2)

Power lines, once sparking in the wind, lay tangled in its branches. The oak next to it was still standing. “They weathered every storm,” said Stephens, 65, who was born and raised in the city and has stayed through every major storm.

“We really didn’t prepare,” she said. “We’ve been in them before.”

She worried about her 90-year-old mother with a pacemaker, and her daughter still in the hospital with her premature baby.

(Video) Eagle 8 HD flies over Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach to survey Hurricane Ian damage

Her family has been cooking using propane since the power went out Wednesday afternoon. The house next door still hasn’t recovered from Hurricane Irma in 2017. It needed a new roof and new windows.

Stephens has called emergency service twice for help removing the tree and checking the power line. Nothing yet.

“They ain’t coming for us,” said Stephens. “This is a good ol’ boy town.”

She was standing on top of the leaves and twigs coating the sidewalks, wondering when help would come for her community. She’s sure the more affluent white neighborhoods were faring better in terms of emergency response.

Her demeanor was calm. That’s how she always is, she said, before adding, “send help.”

A few blocks down, Doll Pruitt sat in a lawn chair on her front patio. The generator she bought five years ago after Hurricane Irma buzzed a few feet away, keeping the food she had left in her refrigerator cool. The sound echoed down the block. Those who had generators had switched them on by now, filling the neighborhood with a familiar hum.

Pruitt and her husband had boarded the house. As Ian made its way to the coast, they sat inside with their grandchildren and waited. The children were more calm than she was; she doesn’t think they knew what was happening.

The radio flickered for about an hour until it cut silent.

“It was scary,” said Pruitt, 56, who was born and raised in Fort Myers. “It just lasted too long. I’ve never been in one that long.”

(Video) Sharks in the Streets, Homes Floating Away; Monster Storm Ian Now Heads to Georgia and Carolinas

In Fort Myers, Black Residents Fear Hurricane Aid Will Bypass Their Neighborhoods (3)

As dinner time approached and the sun began to set, a gentle breeze set in, an eerie pause in the almost unbearable heat that typically pipes down on Florida’s beach towns in the summer months. It was carrying smoke from the grills, dispersed across Dunbar, that had been lit. Neighbors came together to make sure folks were fed.

Garry Davis, 43, was sweeping his driveway, unconcerned about the palm tree now propped up against the roof of his mother’s house. He heard it fall last night. There was little to do now but wait until he’s able to reach someone who can remove it.

Some houses down, a tree had almost sliced a home in two.

Carsi Bellamy, who has lived next door for 20 years, heard the boom. He wondered if a nearby transformer blew or lightning struck. When he tried to peer out of his patio door, the wind almost tore it off the hinges.

Ian was his fifth major hurricane. After Frances, Irma, Charley, and Michael.

“Ian was the worst,” said Bellamy, who stayed home alone. “I didn’t even prepare for this one.”

His aunt’s house, right on the beach, was flooded. A photo from inside the home showed their SUV nearly covered in water. Now, the house sat filled with mud.

The worst part is waiting on the power to come back on, said Bellamy. “My groceries are going bad.” He wonders if he should cut down the trees in his front yard. It is something he has never thought of before. In the midst of the storm, he moved his car a few feet back, fearing a tree would crush it.

He’s convinced his community will have to wait until the last wave of resources to get help.

(Video) Hurricane Ian: Witnessing the aftermath on Sanibel Island and Florida’s southwest coast | 60 Minutes

“I haven’t seen one light truck,” he said. “No tree truck. I haven’t seen one power truck.”

FAQs

Did Ian hit Fort Myers? ›

At least 54 people in the county died in storm-related deaths when Ian made landfall outside Fort Myers on Sept. 28, according to the state Medical Examiners Commission, the most of any county.

How badly was Fort Myers hit by the hurricane? ›

Devastation across Lee County, including inland

Beaches in the area were destroyed and images show destruction caused by the forceful movement of boats. There was obvious destruction throughout Fort Myers from the hurricane.

Where did Hurricane Ian hit? ›

Hurricane Ian

Did Ian hit Jamie and Brooke? ›

Over the course of the episode, we learn that Professor Kellerman was not the one to hit Brooke and Jamie on the bridge, but it was his son, Ian Kellerman.

Who blew up the DEA building in Fort Myers Florida? ›

Jeffrey Mathews made history at the age of 23 by being the only person to blow up a United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) office on American soil.

What is the safest place in Florida from hurricanes? ›

If you want to stay as safe as possible from hurricanes but still want to reap the benefits of being a Florida citizen, inland Florida near the northern border of Georgia is the best place to live. It is the least hurricane-prone area in Florida.

What city in Florida is the safest from hurricanes? ›

Safest Places to Live in Florida From Hurricanes
  • Leesburg. Leesburg, Florida is considered one of the safest places in the state when it comes to the risk of hurricanes. ...
  • Orlando. If you're looking for hurricane-safe Florida cities, you'll want to check out O-Town. ...
  • Sanford. ...
  • Kissimmee. ...
  • Palatka. ...
  • Lake City. ...
  • Naples. ...
  • Ocala.
25 Nov 2021

What city in Florida gets hit the most by hurricanes? ›

1. Southeast Florida (Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach) Southeast Florida is very susceptible to hurricanes, given its location at the tip of the state.

How far did the surge Go in Fort Myers? ›

USGS data analyzed so far shows the surge rose as high as 13.23 feet in Fort Myers Beach, a level that translated to more than nine feet of ocean water above normally dry ground in buildings that sit a few feet above sea level.

Where is the safest location from hurricanes? ›

Stay inside and away from windows, skylights and glass doors. Find a safe area in the home (an interior room, a closet or bathroom on the lower level).

What was the worst hurricane in history? ›

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 was, and still is, the deadliest hurricane to hit the United States. The hurricane hit Galveston, Texas, on September 8, 1900, as a Category 4 hurricane.

Did Alex sleep with Clay? ›

Details: While at TRIC the two meet and flirted together they then soon went back to Clay's and had a one-night-stand. Alex Later tried to repeat their one-night-stand although it didn't happen.

Do Chase and Alex have a baby? ›

Actor and Producer Chase A. Crawford announced over the weekend that he and his wife Alex welcomed their second daughter, Carter Annelaine Crawford, into the world. We're happy to share some exclusive shots of this family doting on their brand new baby girl!

Who pushed Ian down the stairs? ›

Alison DiLaurentis reveals she was the one who pushed Ian from the Bell Tower, however she also revealed that the fall didn't kill him, and she saw him stumble away.

Who was Jeff Matthews? ›

Jeffrey Mathews (born August 25, 1991) is a former American football quarterback. He was most recently a member of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL).

How do I contact the DEA in Florida? ›

Please contact the DEA at (800) 882-9539 or visit their website.

Where in Florida is least likely to get hit by a hurricane? ›

Ocala. Ocala, FL, has a low hurricane risk, with only 73 being recorded since 1930. This Central Florida city steers clear of the ocean, so most hurricanes dwindle to a tropical storm status by the time they reach it. The 1964 Hurricane Dora was the largest to hit Ocala, and the most recent was Andrea in 2013.

What is the safest part of Florida to live in? ›

Safest Cities Overall
  • COOPER CITY, FL. Safety Score:96.7. + Population:36,896. Property Crimes (per 100,000):1,174. ...
  • WESTON, FL. Safety Score:96.6. + Population:71,744. ...
  • SEBASTIAN, FL. Safety Score:95.3. + Population:25,672. ...
  • PORT ST. LUCIE, FL. Safety Score:94.8. + ...
  • PORT ORANGE, FL. Safety Score:94.1. + Population:64,208.
26 Sept 2022

Which part of Florida is best to live in? ›

14 Best Places to Live in Florida
  1. Naples. Nestled in the southwest corner of Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico, Naples holds the top spot for places to live in Florida. ...
  2. Sarasota. ...
  3. Melbourne. ...
  4. Jacksonville. ...
  5. Pensacola. ...
  6. Tampa. ...
  7. Fort Myers. ...
  8. Port St.
12 Sept 2022

What state gets hit by the most hurricanes? ›

It probably comes as no surprise that Florida has been hit by more hurricanes than any other state since the inception of the Saffir/Simpson scale in 1851. Its location directly between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico makes it susceptible to hurricanes that come from either side.

What beaches have no hurricanes? ›

Islands of the Caribbean located the furthest south—including Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Curaçao, and the Turks and Caicos—are the least likely to experience hurricanes, and islands further west are less likely than islands on the eastern side of the Caribbean to experience severe weather during the Atlantic hurricane ...

Is Fort Myers booming? ›

Woods & Poole Economics predicts the Cape Coral – Fort Myers metro area will see a 92% jump in people calling the area home. That's fourth in the country behind the Villages, St. George, Utah, and Austin, Texas. Right now, about 800,000 people call Lee County home.

How far inland does storm surge go in Florida? ›

Storm surges have been known to go 25 miles inland, submerging cars and flooding houses in its path. There is nothing we can do to prevent hurricanes from forming year after year, but there is a lot we can do to reduce or even prevent the damage they cause.

Why is Fort Myers growing so fast? ›

According to the Census Bureau, Fort Myers is the sixth fastest-growing city in the nation. The reason for the growth, it appears to be about location. When other parts of Florida boomed, Mayor Kevin Anderson says the city was right behind.

What is the safest state to live in? ›

Safest States in the U.S.
Overall Rank*StateTotal Score
1Vermont68.79
2Maine66.95
3New Hampshire63.99
4Utah63.48
45 more rows
25 Oct 2022

What is the safest room in a house during a hurricane? ›

Go to a safe area, such as an interior room, closet or downstairs bathroom. Never go outside the protection of your home or shelter before there is confirmation that the storm has passed the area.

What is the safest weather state to live in? ›

Colorado

Ranked one of the most beautiful states in the country, Colorado has a ton of forests and mountains, mostly covered in snow during the winter months. Threats such as hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and tornadoes are minimal.

What is the weirdest hurricane ever? ›

Hurricane Vince was an unusual hurricane that developed in the northeastern Atlantic basin.
...
Hurricane Vince.
Category 1 hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Hurricane Vince near peak intensity southeast of the Azores on 9 October
Dissipated11 October 2005
Highest winds1-minute sustained: 75 mph (120 km/h)
Lowest pressure988 mbar (hPa); 29.18 inHg
13 more rows

What is the number 1 worst hurricane? ›

Hurricane Katrina 2005

Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane with winds up to 125 mph near Buras, La. The hurricane and its aftermath claimed more than 1,800 lives, primarily from Louisiana and Mississippi. Katrina ranks as the costliest storm to hit the U.S., with an estimated $170 billion in damages.

When was the last bad hurricane in Florida? ›

Additionally, the cumulative impact from the storms has totalled over US$216.1 billion in damage (2018 dollars), primarily from Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael in the 1992, 2017, and 2018 seasons respectively. The most recent hurricane to make landfall in Florida was Hurricane Ian in 2022.

› weather › eye-on-the-tropics › 10... ›

Still, Homeinsurance.com has ranked Florida's cities based on their evaluation of NOAA-identified storms from 1965 to October 2014, doling out scores based ...
Hurricane Irma is the worst hurricane to have hit the Fort Myers-Naples area in recent history in 2017. As a Category 4 hurricane, Irma caused more than $64 bil...
Southeast Florida (Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach) · Key West and the Florida keys · Southwest Florida (Fort Myers-Naples) · West Fl...

What city was hardest hit by Ian? ›

Hurricane Ian made landfall as a Category 4 storm on Florida's southwest coast on Wednesday afternoon, sweeping away homes and communities. Fort Myers Beach, a coastal city on a barrier island, was among the areas hardest hit, with storm surges nearly reaching the roofs of some houses.

Did the Fort Myers Pier survive Hurricane Ian? ›

A fishing pier in Fort Myers, Florida was destroyed by the Category 4 storm.

Where did tornado hit in Fort Myers? ›

According to the National Weather Service, the tornado touched down about 7:35 a.m. in the Iona area of Fort Myers, lasting five minutes and traveling 1.8 miles. Lee County officials reported Sunday there were four injuries.

What city did Hurricane Ian hit the hardest? ›

A storm surge with inundation of an unprecedented 12 to 18 feet above ground level was reported along the southwestern Florida coast, and the city of Fort Myers itself was hit particularly hard with a 7.26 foot surge—a record high. Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sept.

How many people died in Hurricane Ian? ›

Ian caused more deaths in Florida — at least 114 — than any hurricane in almost 90 years. Five other people died from the storm in North Carolina, as well as one in Virginia. Like Ms. Santangelo, residents became trapped in floodwaters inside their homes.

What cities affected by Ian? ›

Millions of Floridians are without power and damage across the state from powerful winds and storm surges caused by Hurricane Ian has been catastrophic, according to officials, with the cities of Sanibel, Cape Coral and Fort Myers—where the Coast Guard is rescuing people from roofs—as well as other areas along the ...

What is the best place to live in Florida away from hurricanes? ›

If you want to stay as safe as possible from hurricanes but still want to reap the benefits of being a Florida citizen, inland Florida near the northern border of Georgia is the best place to live. It is the least hurricane-prone area in Florida.

What city in Florida gets hit the most by hurricanes? ›

1. Southeast Florida (Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach) Southeast Florida is very susceptible to hurricanes, given its location at the tip of the state.

What city in Florida is safe from hurricanes? ›

Safest Places to Live in Florida From Hurricanes
  • Leesburg. Leesburg, Florida is considered one of the safest places in the state when it comes to the risk of hurricanes. ...
  • Orlando. If you're looking for hurricane-safe Florida cities, you'll want to check out O-Town. ...
  • Sanford. ...
  • Kissimmee. ...
  • Palatka. ...
  • Lake City. ...
  • Naples. ...
  • Ocala.
25 Nov 2021

Is Fort Myers Florida a rich area? ›

By far, the place with the most cashing-in was Fort Myers, on Florida's west coast. With a relatively small population of well-off retirees, the city and surrounding area realized nearly $103,000 in capital gains per resident, easily eclipsing other American cities.

Where is Florida's tornado Alley? ›

In Florida, measured in frequency of tornadoes for every 10,000 square miles, the coast between Tampa Bay and Fort Myers has a particularly high incidence, as do the western panhandle and parts of the Atlantic Coast.

Has Fort Myers Florida ever had snow? ›

Although snow in Florida is not as rare as it is believed to be, the farthest south snow had been previously observed was along a Fort Myers to Fort Pierce line in February 1899.

What is the number 1 deadliest hurricane? ›

The 31 Deadliest Atlantic Hurricanes
RankName/Areas of Largest LossDeaths
1.Great Hurricane (Martinique, Barbados, St. Eustatius)22,000
2.Great Galveston Hurricane8,000-12,000
3.Mitch (Honduras, Nicaragua)9,086
4.Fifi (Honduras)8,000-10,000
27 more rows

What was the worst hurricane known to man? ›

What Was the Worst Hurricane in History?
  • #8: Hurricane Michael (2018) ...
  • #7: Hurricane Camille (1969) ...
  • #6: Hurricane Andrew (1992) ...
  • #5: The 1926 Hurricane. ...
  • #4: Hurricane Harvey (2017) ...
  • #3: 1900 Hurricane. ...
  • #2: Hurricane Katrina (2005) ...
  • #1: Hurricane Maria (2017)

What hurricane was the worst one ever? ›

More people were killed in this single storm than the total of those killed in at least the next two deadliest tropical cyclones that have struck the United States since. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 remains the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

› article › weather › hurricane-ian-... ›

TAMPA, Fla. — Hurricane Ian left behind catastrophic damage across portions of southwest Florida, making landfall as a Category 4 storm and pushing in a devasta...
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Rescue crews piloted boats and waded through inundated streets Thursday to save thousands of Floridians trapped amid flooded homes and s...
Aerial footage of Fort Myers taken Monday, October 3 shows the continued devastation caused by Hurricane Ian.Florida continues its disaster relief and recove...

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