With reports of roughly 2,500 rescues so far in southwest Florida and a growing death toll from Hurricane Ian, local deputies joined recovery efforts this week in hard-hit Charlotte County, where they expect to stay until they’re no longer needed.
Twelve Indian River County Sheriff’s Office deputies traveled to Charlotte County Oct. 1 in a caravan of patrol cars, SUVs, and trucks hauling boats and RVs.
They expect to join in searches, clear debris, enforce curfews and monitor businesses to deter potential looters, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office officials said.
“We started off covering the night shift,” said Lt. Joe Abollo, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office.
Abollo said deputies cut trees and cleared debris from roadways Monday night for power restoration. Tand Tuesday, they began responding to calls for help, looking through homes and businesses and enforcing curfew.
There’s no timeline for when the deputies will return, Abollo said, who noted they’ll stay until they’re no longer needed or until they’re rotated with other deputies from the agency.
“They will be doing a range of things,” he said. “We’re going to be providing safety and security … we’re going to be patrolling.”
Deputies were also expected to help with continued search-and-rescue efforts in areas accessible only by boat, he said, by “basically checking homes for any survivors and providing them with resources.”
More than 2,350 people were rescued and evacuated from counties across southwest and central Florida as of noon Monday, according to the latest available records from the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
“This includes more than 2,100 civilians rescued and evacuated from flooded areas via truck; more than 200 rotary wing rescues, and more than 50 boat rescues,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management spokesperson Amelia Johnson by email. “Currently, 5,227 Joint Task Force Florida personnel are activated and supporting 207 missions, including search-and-rescue operations throughout Southwest and Central Florida.”
There were between 71 to 100 reports of deaths Tuesday, while the state Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed 68 storm-related deaths.
“The area that our guys are overseeing is the main business district” Abollo said. “Our group split up into two teams of six (and) they’re also helping out with local sheriff’s office calls and police.”
Joining other locals
By Tuesday, sheriff’s offices from each Treasure Coast county had made trips west to assist law enforcement in Charlotte County, which was reported to have sustained widespread damage to homes and infrastructure.
Charlotte County sits just north of Lee County, where Ian made landfall Sept. 28.
The eye wall of the storm moved onto Captiva and Sanibel islands off Cape Coral just after 1 p.m., and at 3:10 p.m. made landfall at Cayo Costa, a barrier island to the west of Fort Myers, as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds at 150 mph. A Category 5 begins at 157 mph sustained winds.
St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara and his Chief Deputy Brian Hester traveled with two semi tractor-trailers of supplies for a reported 26 deputies who lost their homes.
Martin County Sheriff’s Office’s 15-member Rapid Response Team arrived in Charlotte County Sept. 30 and deputies have been on night looting patrols in a 10-mile business district that was a mix of homes and commercial storefronts, Sheriff William Snyder said earlier this week.
Abollo said the Indian River County deputies would work as usual, just in a different county.
“Under the Florida Sheriff’s Association Mutual Aid Agreement … deputies will have full law enforcement authority while on deployment,” he said.