FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — Heartbreaking aerial images on Thursday showed miles upon miles of devastation along coastal Southwest Florida, damage that will likely take years to repair and recover from.
On the laid back island community of Fort Myers Beach, shells of homes barely remain with planks of wood and debris scattered across streets.
Just feet away, what was once a white sand beach is now badly eroded with seaweed blanketing the ground.
Store roofs are ripped off, boats are tossed around, and a small fire could be seen burning at a waterfront property.
WATCH: Aerials of Hurricane Ian damage on Fort Myers Beach
Up and down the Southwest Florida coast on Thursday, crews are assessing the damage from Hurricane Ian, which made landfall near the island of Cayo Costa around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday as a monster Category 4 storm packing sustained winds of 150 miles per hour.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said there are at least 2.2 million utility customers without power throughout the state, mostly in Southwest Florida, with Lee and Charlotte counties "basically off the grid."
The governor added the power grids in those counties will likely have to be rebuilt.
President Joe Biden officially issued a disaster declaration Thursday, meaning the federal government will reimburse Florida for 100% of storm-related costs over the next 60 days.
Search and rescue operations are now underway throughout the state, with eight Urban Search and Rescue teams and more than 800 first responders working tirelessly to help survivors.
In places like Sanibel Island, where the only causeway on and off the island has collapsed, the National Guard and Coast Guard are landing helicopters on the island to perform search and rescues.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management said more than 500 people have been rescued in Lee and Charlotte counties as of 2 p.m. Thursday.
According to a report by the Associated Press, hundreds of hospital patients were evacuated from facilities across the Fort Myers region on Thursday after damage from Ian cut off water supplies.
To aid in the relief efforts, you can donate to the Florida Disaster Fund by clicking here or texting DISASTER to 20222.