Charlie Whitehead, 64, who lives on San Carlos Island across from Fort Myers Beach Island, has spent most of his time trying to salvage family photos since the storm. The painting depicts him and his wife Debbie when they were young.
Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Ian hit Florida’s southwest coast, affected communities are slowly starting to clean up the damage left by the storm. Families with their homes submerged in water find there is little to salvage: furniture floating around is dry but is now starting to mold, wooden boxes and drawers show signs of water damage, electronics are now useless, few cars survive the flood. Debris piled high on each driveway offers a glimpse into what the homes behind them used to look like, and the families that were once cherished but now forced to throw away. The rubbish heap includes souvenirs deformed beyond preservation, precious photographs, rugs, dining tables, dining chairs, mirrors, clothes—mostly covered in dirt.
Miguel Romero, 26, who lives in Linda, said: “Big garbage trucks with claws, they just come in and they pick up those things like there’s nothing. 17 years of hard work The job is gone in five minutes.” Loma neighborhood, near the beach. Romero, his partner and their 1-year-old daughter, along with his parents, entered their first-floor attic to survive. Almost everything in the house was destroyed. But in the end, like so many others here, things are things, he said, and he’s grateful his family is still alive.