BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Some Western New Yorkers are stuck in Southwest Florida as the tremendous clean-up effort begins. Hurricane Ian will not only have a lasting impact on these communities, but also on Florida tourism, as travel to some destinations is impossible.
Steven Piscitelli is from Great Valley, N.Y., but is in Fort Myers and rode the storm out there. He says the hurricane left behind damage similar to an ice storm, except it is much worse. Now that the storm has passed, a massive clean-up effort is underway.
“There are big huge cement piers that are sitting in the middle of downtown Fort Myers,” Piscitelli said Thursday night.
Hurricane Ian blasted through Florida on Wednesday leaving destruction in its wake. Piscitelli was in Miami for the Bills game against the Dolphins and decided to visit his condo in Fort Myers. He was not forced to evacuate, so he stayed in his condo hunkered down.
“The hurricane is a lot worse than a blizzard up there because of just the way it comes in,” Piscitelli continued. “It was just unreal. The wind, the wind is so much stronger. The water too.”
Eleven National Guardsmen and two Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters from Rochester traveled to Fort Myers Thursday to transport people who need help and move heavy cargo in the storm zone.
“When you have roads that might be flooded out and facilities are destroyed and you need to get people, again they carry about 30 people, or high value equipment to there, then a CH-47 can do that,” Eric Durr, director of public affairs for the New York State division of military and naval affairs, told News 4.
Travel plans for many Western New Yorkers may take a turn as the clean-up effort begins. Flights are still canceled to many Florida destinations. Even when the airports reopen, AAA says vacation plans could still be derailed.
“If you’re supposed to go to Sanibel Island, you probably can’t get there. If you’re supposed to go to Disney, they’re going to have these parks back up and running, so its a matter of where your destination is and where you are going,” Elizabeth Carey, director of public relations for AAA, said. This is something you have to think about.”
Travel experts say it is important to check on every aspect of travel if you are heading to Florida, which includes flights, hotels, and rental cars.
The Tampa and Orlando airports are scheduled to reopen Friday. Some of the Orlando-area theme parks will have a phased opening Friday, including Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando. Sea World says they plan to reopen on Saturday.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.