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Fort Myers Beach continues to rebuild after Hurricane Ian: 'It's complete devastation'

'There's no words to describe it, it's complete devastation,' resident says
Posted at 4:14 PM, Dec 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-19 16:14:41-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The memory of Hurricane Ian still haunts Fort Myers Beach. Everywhere you turn structures are leveled or stand in time from that fateful day on Sept. 23rd, when a nearly 20-foot wall of storm surge pulverized everything.

"There's no words to describe it, it's complete devastation," Tom Taylor said.

Residents like Taylor can't put the past behind. Instead, he and thousands of others dig in to rebuild not only the physical landscape, but the emotional toll you can't see.

Tom Taylor 12192022
Tom Taylor describes how the community is working together to rebuild on Fort Myers Beach.

"Fort Myers Beach, and the people, have the biggest hearts in the world, they are all sticking together, they all want to bring this community back," Taylor said.

That will take years as WPTV saw firsthand. The broken infrastructure continues on a slow, tedious rebuild each day. It starts with a complete gutting of homes and structures.

Karen Dehays rode out the storm on her second floor documenting a terrifying, life threatening moment in video that's gained millions of views. Today her view is a skeleton of what it once was.

Damaged and missing homes are seen in the wake of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Damaged and missing homes are seen in the wake of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers Beach, Fla.

The recovery effort has been a painful and a painstaking process for residents. An old, abandoned baseball field is now a debris field. Thousands of pounds of debris are being poured into the field every day, and there's no end in sight. It is evidence that this Category 4 storm was large, destructive and deadly.

"The community is working together," Taylor said.

Dangling lines, boats stacked into each other, cars that remain swept into place and parts of lives are stacked on corners. It is a humbling site where mother nature took out her rage and nearly three months after the fact, the indelible mark still remains.

"I'm grateful that I'm living and that I'm able to try and rebuild," Taylor said.

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