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Englewood, Florida a ‘war zone’ after Ian’s wrath. The cleanup begins.

ENGLEWOOD, Florida — Stunned Treasure Coast residents have begun the daunting task of cleaning up and rebuilding following the devastating passage of Hurricane Ian.

The storm’s eye blasted ashore Wednesday along this low-lying coastal area between Sarasota and Fort Myers that’s popular with retirees for its low-cost housing and typically balmy weather. Mobile home parks sit next to million-dollar houses.

“It’s just so sad to see everything broken. I knew it was going to be bad but this made me cry a bit,” said Jayme McDonald, 42, a nurse who worked through the storm and returned home after the worst had passed. Friday morning, McDonald and her neighbor Rachel Allen walked their dogs through their partially flooded neighborhood off Old Englewood Boulevard.

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Allen, 34, owns a cleaning business and stayed home during the storm, which nearly shook their house apart. Their living room flooded, and her husband has already begun tearing out the flooring and walls, hoping to prevent the growth of black mold in late-summer humidity. 

“We’re waiting to get ahold of the insurance company. But cell service is just so spotty so it’s just kind of wait and see,” she said.

A few blocks away, Kevin Pruett, 42, surveyed the massive pine tree that had collapsed across the yard of his single-story home. Pruett regretted not evacuating and worries how long it will take to restore electricity and running water. People are already scrounging for drinking water and searching in vain for gas, and in some cases dipping water from retention ponds to flush their toilets.

Streets remained flooded in Englewood, Florida, on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, after Hurricane Ian.

“You’re talking weeks or months to get electric,” Pruett said. “There’s not enough materials or workers in the world to get it done faster.”

As of Friday morning, about 1.9 million customers in Florida were without power, officials said. 

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Like many residents who rode out the storm, Pruett said he believes it will have forever altered the area’s social fabric. All around him, mobile homes have been tipped on their sides, steel street signs folded over like paper. More than a foot of water — with two alligators, officials said — blocks one of the main roads.

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