As of Wednesday, search-and-rescue crews had brought nearly 2,000 people to safety and out of harm’s way following Ian.
And while communities are beginning to rebuild, many will have long-lasting emotional challenges.
Sanibel Island survivors have shared their stories of survival with NewsNation, showing their fight to stay alive during and after the storm as they waited for rescue crews to evacuate them. One woman, who was stranded on the island, thought she was going to die and started recording her final goodbyes.
“You guys aren’t going to believe this,” Jennifer O’Neill said in a self-recorded video that showed Ian’s catastrophic winds and rain.
O’Neill was stranded on the second floor of her Sanibel Island home. She recorded the storm’s devastation when she realized the storm was going to be worse than she had originally thought.
“I did the video because I didn’t know if the next morning they were going to find my body,” O’Neill told NewsNation. “And I hoped I could get a message out to my parents and tell them that I loved them and the people that I cared about.”
When the storm intensified, O’Neill’s emotions overwhelmed her. She recorded herself saying goodbye to her family and friends.
“I love you, mom and dad. I love you,” she cried, “Thanks for everything you ever did.”
She told NewsNation that it was like a goodbye to the island and to everything.
O’Neill was eventually rescued from the island by her good friend Judd, whose boat survived the storm, but she said her mind will be stuck there for a while.
“It’s been a struggle. Basically, we’re just putting one foot in front of the other and trying to help as many people as we can. And you know, you have emotional breakdowns so it’s tough,” she admitted.
More families are trying to get back to the barrier islands so they can assess the damage done to their properties, but it’s incredibly tough because many boats were damaged in the storm.