Ian has passed through Fort Myers, but the area is still without water or power
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
On Florida's Gulf Coast, people are trying to pick up the lives that they put on hold when Hurricane Ian struck earlier this week. A few businesses have reopened, and that means long lines at gas stations, supermarkets and the occasional food truck. In the hardest-hit areas - meaning Fort Myers and surrounding communities - there's still no power or water and wide uncertainty about when it may be back. NPR's Greg Allen has been out talking to people there and joins us now. Hi, Greg.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.
CHANG: OK, so there's no power or water, but some businesses are reopening. How are they doing that?
ALLEN: Well, with generators, mostly. You know, there's been an emphasis in Florida on having gas stations and supermarkets have emergency generators, but all those generators require gas. Chad Varney and his brother Brandon waited in line in North Port, in Charlotte County, for almost two hours today to get gas. Chad says their house flooded in the storm surge.
CHAD VARNEY: So we had two canals going all around us, so we could watch the water coming in. As soon as it went over the neighbor's yard, we knew it was coming to the street next. And as soon as they all met, obviously, we just watched the water, you know, keep on rising. We watched it come up into our pool, up in our lanai, up in our garage. We have about two feet of standing water in our garage - about a foot and a half all around our house inside.
CHANG: Well, how much have the floodwaters subsided in the areas where you are?
ALLEN: Well, in a lot of areas we visited, the storm surge quickly went down. But Brandon Varney, Chad's brother, says the water has gone down at his house. But in other areas, it's still rising.
BRANDON VARNEY: Back in North Port, it's going to be rising probably for the next week or so. That's what they're saying. Power - they're saying for three months it could be out out there.
ALLEN: Many roads are still flooded and closed in North Port, and some residents are using boats or kayaks to get in and out of their homes.
CHANG: And Greg, I understand that you've also been to Cape Coral, which also took a huge hit during this storm. How are people doing there?
ALLEN: Well, you know, this is an area that was pummeled by 140-mile-per-hour winds for hours. And also, it got that powerful storm surge. We talked to Karen Colley, who has a home and a business here. She says both were flooded when the surge came in on Monday.
KAREN COLLEY: We came to our office to get whatever we could salvage because the roof's just - everything's just going to come down. Our house is OK other than the water that came in, and it smells like sewage - raw sewage.
ALLEN: Driving through Cape Coral today, we saw a lot of damage to roofs, carports, awnings. We saw aluminum siding wrapped around palm trees. There are a lot of trees down. But in the section we saw, concrete-construction houses held up remarkably well despite those high winds and the flooding.
CHANG: Well, we were mentioning how some businesses are reopening. Can you say more about that - how some people are beginning this long recovery process?
ALLEN: Right. Near Cape Coral's downtown, Matt Harrison had three smokers going today and was selling barbecue from his food truck.
MATT HARRISON: Today we just ran out of pulled pork. I got more cooking right now, so we'll have more again tonight. We've got brisket and ribs right now.
ALLEN: He stocked up on ribs and brisket before the storm. The one thing he didn't have today, though, was bread. His home and business were flooded, and he thinks recovery is going to be a long process.
HARRISON: It took us 19 days with Irma. This is 100 times worse. It's - I can't even say. Months wouldn't surprise me.
CHANG: Well, we also began to get word today of fatalities during this storm. What do we know so far on that front?
ALLEN: Well, Florida officials say they need to wait for medical examiners to rule before they can confirm which deaths are really storm related. So right now, although there's just one confirmed storm-related death, we know of at least 20 others that are awaiting confirmation, and that number is only likely to grow.
CHANG: Right. That is NPR's Greg Allen in Fort Myers, Fla. Thank you so much, Greg.
ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.