Neighborhoods under feet of water. Islands stripped bare of trees. The bones of former marinas emptied of their boats.
These are the devastating scenes coming to light as emergency response crews document before-and-after aerial images of the Southwest Florida coast.
The National Ocean Service started photographing Hurricane Ian’s destructive aftermath from above on Thursday, just 24 hours after the storm made landfall as one of the most powerful to ever strike the Florida peninsula.
Parts of Sanibel Causeway washed away
Storm surge from Hurricane Ian washed away a portion of the Sanibel Causeway just west of the mainland, cutting off access to the island. About a mile down the road, Causeway Islands Park was also overwhelmed by a surging Gulf of Mexico. Aerial images show what was once an island park dazzling with white sands, now battered and in pieces.
Fort Myers’ Legacy Harbour Marina in ruins
Home to the popular dining spot Joe’s Crab Shack, Legacy Harbour Marina in Fort Myers is now in ruins. On Thursday, yachts were piled on top of one another like building blocks. Wooden docks littered the road. The air smelled of tar and boat fuel. Aerial images show the marina destroyed by the storm.
Iona neighborhoods submerged
The unincorporated community of Iona, just southwest of downtown Fort Myers, was one of the neighborhoods most impacted by flooding. On Thursday, many low-lying homes were still submerged in roughly a foot of water. Aerial images show many suburban streets and homes unrecognizable because of flooding.
More aerial missions planned
The first aerial mission covered some of the most damaged areas, including Sanibel Island, Punta Gorda and portions of both Cape Coral and the Caloosahatchee River stretching as far as Interstate 75.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to determine which areas to document, according to the agency.
Teams plan to fly over other impacted areas, including Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs and Port Charlotte, according to NOAA flight plans. A crew flew out again Friday morning, but the timeline for when the new imagery will become available “varies greatly,” the Ocean Service posted to Twitter.
At a time when cell service is still spotty in some of the hardest-hit areas, including Fort Myers Beach and San Carlos Island, the imagery “is a crucial tool to determine the extent of the damage inflicted by flooding,” according to NOAA.
The pictures offer insight into which roads are passable, which neighborhoods are destroyed, and which communities may have been spared from the worst, according to NOAA.
Photos from the National Geodetic Survey are captured with a high-tech aircraft, dubbed the Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350CER. It’s loaded with two digital cameras and sensors facing straight down.
You can find more NOAA aftermath imagery here.
• • •
Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage
HOW TO HELP: Where to donate or volunteer to help Hurricane Ian victims.
TAMPA BAY CLOSURES: What to know about bridges, roads in Ian’s aftermath
WHEN THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?
WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.
SCHOOLS: Will schools reopen quickly after Hurricane Ian passes? It depends.
MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.