NAPLES, Fla. — Rose Marie Santangelo had weathered many hurricanes in her many years dwelling close to the water exterior Naples, Fla. She thought she was ready for Hurricane Ian, too.
However like so many different Floridians, Ms. Santangelo, 73, a beloved aunt who had retired from a profession in radiation oncology, underestimated this storm.
“She actually thought that it wouldn’t hit right here,” Phyllis Santangelo, a niece, mentioned. “After which when it did take a flip, I believe she knew it was going to be unhealthy.”
Ian brought on extra deaths in Florida — no less than 114 — than any hurricane in virtually 90 years. 5 different individuals died from the storm in North Carolina, in addition to one in Virginia. Like Ms. Santangelo, residents grew to become trapped in floodwaters inside their houses. Others stopped respiratory when energy outages left oxygen machines inoperable. Or they perished in automobiles because the storm surge rose.
However the storm’s impression, whereas broadly felt, was not even.
Many of the victims had been older adults. Two-thirds of them had been 60 or older, and 30 had been previous their eightieth birthdays.
The individuals who died had been concentrated in uncovered coastal areas and on barrier islands. Although deaths had been reported in 21 counties, practically half got here from Lee County, in southwest Florida.
And a lot of victims — no less than 58 — drowned, as Ian’s dimension, comparatively gradual motion and large storm surge multiplied its risk.
As residents type by the wreckage in Florida, a have a look at who died and the place revealed how an growing old inhabitants on the coast proved particularly weak to Ian. In lots of instances, the individuals who died had pre-existing medical issues, waited too lengthy to evacuate and had been trapped by floodwaters. In a number of the hardest-hit areas, evacuation orders that had been delayed amid a shifting storm monitor added to the confusion.
Many victims had important medical issues.
As Hurricane Ian neared southwest Florida, Peggy Collson, 67, grew to become more and more fearful about her means to outlive. She lived alone on the island neighborhood of Matlacha, in a modest one-story home alongside the water that had withstood earlier hurricanes. However Ms. Collson, who obtained day by day care from nurse’s aides and couldn’t stroll with out help, knew she could be in danger.
A number of days earlier than the hurricane, she tried to make preparations to go away the island, mentioned her brother Jim Collson, who lives in New York. However she in the end determined to remain. The morning of the storm, Sept. 28, her fears magnified.
The Aftermath of Hurricane Ian
“She was so nervous she was sick to her abdomen,” he mentioned.
Ms. Collson drowned. She was discovered floating in a canal a number of blocks from her residence.
Evacuating was particularly difficult for a lot of older Floridians with well being issues, leaving them with restricted choices.
And there was Ms. Santangelo, who had a years-old again harm and sometimes used a walker round her pink two-bedroom residence.
Because the hurricane approached, Ms. Santangelo was in contact with relations in her residence state of Ohio. However by the afternoon of Sept. 28, she had stopped responding to their calls and textual content messages. When a neighbor stopped by to verify on her the subsequent day, a sheriff’s incident report mentioned, he discovered her lifeless on the kitchen ground. She had drowned.
5 of Ms. Santangelo’s nieces and nephews got here from Ohio to filter the home. Ten days after the storm, they stood round her candlelit kitchen island, ingesting their aunt’s favourite Pinot Grigio. They deliberate to unfold her ashes round her palm timber.
“She was cherished a lot,” Phyllis Santangelo mentioned. “She by no means had youngsters; we had been her children.”
Lengthy waits for rescue had been typically too lengthy.
Alice F. Argo referred to as legislation enforcement 10 instances over practically 12 hours as floodwaters rose in her residence in New Smyrna Seaside, on Florida’s Atlantic coast, the place Ian dumped heavy rain after making landfall throughout the state.
Round noon Sept. 29, Ms. Argo informed dispatchers the water was as much as her knees. Later, she informed them her husband, Jerry W. Argo, 67, had fallen and hit his head. She stored calling. They informed her they’d a backlog of rescue calls and had been ready on specialised gear to journey by the flood.
Lisa Mitchell, Ms. Argo’s daughter, mentioned Mr. Argo had fallen off a bar stool into the water. Ms. Argo tried propping his head as much as preserve him above the water. It wasn’t sufficient.
By the point the Volusia County Sheriff’s Workplace responded late that evening, Mr. Argo was lifeless from drowning. He was one among a number of Floridians whom emergency crews weren’t in a position to attain in time.
The sheriff’s workplace in Volusia County mentioned it was trying into whether or not it wanted to accumulate extra autos able to touring in excessive waters.
Ms. Mitchell mentioned she wished she might have helped, however she was additionally trapped: “My entire yard was flooded.”
Ian’s demise toll was historic, however actual information might be fuzzy.
On Oct. 1, within the quick aftermath of Ian’s brutal impression on southwest Florida, a spokeswoman for the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Workplace mentioned in an electronic mail that “we at the moment have 23 deaths which are instantly or not directly associated to the storm.” She added that the native medical expert would later decide official causes of demise. Two days later, she mentioned the demise toll in Charlotte County had risen to 24.
However as of this week, the medical expert there had linked solely eight of these deaths to Hurricane Ian, deciding that a lot of the relaxation weren’t brought on by the storm in any case.
The distinction within the numbers in Charlotte County underscores the subjective science of figuring out which deaths that occurred in the course of the storm had been brought on by it, no less than partly.
Some findings are apparent, like when an individual drowns after their home floods throughout a hurricane. However some are much less clear.
In different Florida counties, health workers added 4 suicides, a murder, automobile crashes and several other coronary heart assaults to the state’s official hurricane demise toll, figuring out that circumstances brought on by the storm contributed to the deaths.
The information on this article relies on official state totals, that are primarily based on the judgment of native health workers. In articles printed earlier than the medical expert in Charlotte County confirmed that the opposite deaths weren’t associated to the storm, The New York Instances relied on the Charlotte County information supplied by the sheriff’s workplace. Due to the time it could take for health workers to conduct autopsies and report their findings, information businesses usually depend on preliminary studies from legislation enforcement to find out the toll of a hurricane.
It’s comparatively frequent for demise counts to alter: In Lee County, the medical expert determined that six deaths reported by the sheriff weren’t related to Ian. Some Florida counties continued so as to add deaths this week, that means the present depend will not be last.
Removed from the coasts, Ian nonetheless claimed victims.
Not lengthy after Ian made landfall, Craig Steven Markgraff Jr., who glided by CJ, referred to as his brother for assist.
“I defined to him that I used to be already within the thick of it,” mentioned the brother, Brett Markgraff, who was hunkered down in one other city together with his son.
CJ, his father and a pal tried to experience out the storm close to Zolfo Springs, a small city practically an hour’s drive from the Gulf Coast. However being inland was no protection from the large quantities of rain and flooding the storm introduced.
As situations improved on the morning of Sept. 29, Brett Markgraff set out for his brother’s residence, however the highway the place his brother lived was underwater. CJ had stopped responding to messages, so Brett Markgraff tried to take a canoe to the home. He was stopped by state officers who had blocked off the world.
Later, rescue crews saved CJ’s father and pal, who had been discovered clinging to timber. However there was no signal of CJ, who was final seen struggling to remain above water as a present swept him away. He was one among many Floridians who died removed from the coast.
Brett Markgraff mentioned rescuers informed him they appeared for CJ, 35, however after about an hour, they wanted to maneuver on.
“I used to be left dumbfounded and helpless,” Mr. Markgraff mentioned.
A number of days later, a detective referred to as their father and mentioned that CJ’s physique had been discovered and recognized by his tattoos.
Some left residence, then grew to become trapped.
Ian Conway, 61, a retired pilot, lived in a tan one-bedroom home in a cellular residence neighborhood in Estero, on the banks of the Estero River. Residing in a flood-prone space, he had at all times assured Margot Conway, one among his two daughters, that he would go to a shelter if a critical hurricane got here by.
The morning that Hurricane Ian hit, he despatched an electronic mail to his siblings saying that he was headed to a shelter, Ms. Conway mentioned. However he by no means made it there.
Simply earlier than 7 a.m. the next morning, a neighbor referred to as Ms. Conway in Washington State. Her father had been discovered lifeless from drowning, draped over a bench on the shuffleboard courtroom throughout the road from his residence.
Mr. Conway’s demise was one among a number of through which individuals left residence, both to hunt shelter, make last preparations or assess injury, solely to wind up changing into victims.
This previous summer time, Mr. Conway’s well being had worsened. Ms. Conway, an emergency room nurse, had urged her father to enter assisted dwelling, however he wished to stay on his personal.
Ten days after the hurricane, Ms. Conway spent a quiet second on the funeral residence together with her father’s stays, enjoying his favourite tune by the Smiths.
“I received to say goodbye,” she mentioned. “I didn’t suppose I used to be going to have the ability to.”
Alex Lemonides and Campbell Robertson contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy and Kitty Bennett contributed analysis.
Supply: NY Times