SARASOTA, Fla. – After about 2 hours of sleep, we left our hotel in Venice around 3:30am. We wanted to get closer to Fort Myers, but had to turn around multiple times due to flooded roadways, downed power lines and fallen trees.
In the pitch dark, it was difficult and scary to drive around. So we made the decision for safety reasons to head north to Sarasota. We arrived in Sarasota just before 5am. What should have been a 20 minute drive took over an hour and a half. Nearly all of Sarasota had lost power. Streets flooded, large trees uprooted. But most houses still in pretty good shape structure wise.
As we got closer to Sarasota Bay, everything changed. Winds on the Bay were over 60mph. A tropical storm warning is still in effect even after Ian is long gone. The 758 causeway to Siesta Key and Bay Island was blocked by police. We’re told the Tactical First In teams are clearing the roads of debris and downed power lines.
As daybreak began around 7:21am, residents of the barrier islands began showing up and were turned away. Police said they expect to open the causeway to residents only later this afternoon.
We are now headed to Fort Myers to survey the most devastated areas. Our biggest challenge short term is finding gas to get there. We had to drive 45 minutes north of Sarasota, close to Tampa, before finding an open gas station.
On a personal note, I’m anxious about going to the heart of where Ian hit the hardest. Many of you know my experience with Hurricane Katrina. I haven’t mentioned it on our newscasts because this story isn’t about me. But Id be lying if I didn’t say how much my heart hurts for the people of Florida. I know the shock and numbness they are feeling. And I know pain that will come in the next few days when that shocks wears off and it becomes real. I also know that resilience is in all of us.
Floridians will come together and rebuild. And Michiganders will be right there for whatever they need.