Hurricane Ian has battered the Florida Peninsula over the past 24 hours, damaging infrastructure and knocking out power for millions throughout the state. Even as the storm continued to sweep through Florida on Wednesday, about 42,000 linemen prepared for the long mission ahead: turning Florida’s back on.
On Wednesday night, Barstool Sports shared a video of hundreds of cherry picker tricks staging for an electrical repair blitzkrieg.
“40k+ linemen are waiting by in Florida right now ready to go to work when they can,” Barstool Sports tweeted. “Legit superstars.”
Another photo made clear the linemen were preparing even as the storm was still raging.
Hurricane Ian hit Florida as a Category 4 storm as it made landfall and passed over Southwest Florida, with wind speeds between 130 and 156 mph. Videos taken on Wednesday showed homes being ripped up from their foundations and at least one shark was spotted swimming through the freshly flooded streets of Fort Myers.
The hurricane was so powerful it virtually sucked away an ocean front in Tampa, with the storm winds causing the ocean to recede for hundreds of yards.
According to a Thursday press release from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ office, 2.5 million people throughout Florida are without power. More than 1.5 million of those outages are just in seven counties in Southwest Florida.
DeSantis’ office said 42,000 linemen from utility services across the state had begun the process of restoring power. His office said the line crews are working 24/7.
There are also eight active Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams, totaling more than 800 members, actively carrying out search and rescue efforts in the state. U.S. Coast Guard crews have also made dozens of rescues.
On Thursday, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno told “Good Morning America” the death toll is in the hundreds.
“While I don’t have confirmed numbers, I defintitely know fatalities are in the hundreds,” Marceno said. “There are thousands of people that are waiting to be rescued.”
During a Thursday press conference, DeSantis said those reported deaths have not yet been confirmed and said “that number that was put out by Lee is basically an estimate of ‘hey these people were calling, the water was rising on their home, they may not have ended up getting through, so we’re obviously hoping that that they can be rescued at this point.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Deanne Criswell also could not confirm the death toll.
“We have a few reports of some fatalities,” Criswell told MSNBC. “We know from the sheriff and from some of our other reports that they expect the number to go up.”