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Heartbreaking aerial video shows miles of destruction, damage in Southwest Florida

Lee and Charlotte counties 'basically off the grid,' Florida's governor says of power outages
Aerials of storm damage on Fort Myers Beach from Hurricane Ian on Sept. 29, 2022.jpg
Posted at 12:45 PM, Sep 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-29 14:32:33-04

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

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.

WATCH: 'You cannot survive,' NBC News journalist says of Naples storm surge

Massive storm surge in Naples

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.

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TROPICAL STORM WATCH: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified coastal area within 48 hours.

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HURRICANE WATCH: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible somewhere within the specified coastal area. A hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

HURRICANE WARNING: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area. A hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.