(WJW) — Hurricane Ian brought widespread flooding to southwest Florida Wednesday, trapping residents in their homes, toppling trees and knocking out power to 2.5 million people, according to the Associated Press.
Storm damage collapsed a portion of the Sanibel Causeway spanning San Carlos Bay that connects Sanibel Island to the mainland. Other roads were left impassable due to debris.
Dozens of Ohio first responders have mobilized to aid Florida, and other relief efforts are underway.
Ian made landfall Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane with 150-mph winds — one of the strongest ever to reach American shores.
Ian weakened overnight and as of Thursday morning was categorized as a tropical storm. Earlier Thursday, the National Hurricane Center still expected “widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flash and urban flooding, with major to record flooding along rivers” for central Florida.
The storm is expected to regain its strength as it approaches the South Carolina coast on Friday, according to the center.
Ohio responders dispatching south for Ian relief
Ohio Task Force 1 is mobilizing 35 more responders to Florida for Hurricane Ian response efforts.
The orders came down Thursday morning, according to a news release. The group was set to deploy from the task force’s Vandalia headquarters later that morning.
The responders are skilled in search and rescue operations, hazardous materials, logistics, safety, communications and planning, according to a release. Their specific destination has yet to be determined.
The task force earlier this week dispatched 47 responders toward Alabama in a 14-vehicle convoy.
Earlier this week, volunteer firefighters from Calcutta in Columbiana County were preparing to head south.
“… Imagine what you’re going through personally and adding on the natural disasters that took out your whole area into your daily problems,” Lt. Randy Schneider told WKBN.
A team including members of Milton Township Fire Department got on the road at 10 p.m. Wednesday, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page.
They’re headed to the emergency operations command center in Lee County, Florida, and will be taking assignments from the county’s sheriff.
How you can help
WJW’s sister station WFLA and parent company Nexstar have partnered with the American Red Cross to help relief efforts for hurricane victims.
Canton volunteer: ‘You helped me, I want to help you’
A Canton woman is one of two Red Cross volunteers now in Florida helping victims of Hurricane Ian, WKBN reported.
Mahogany Coward said she started volunteering with the Red Cross six years ago, after the agency assisted her when her home flooded.
“We needed help, y’all stepped right in,” Coward told WKBN. “There’s no other reason why I would sign up for it. You helped me, I want to help you.”