As Sanibel Island, Florida, grapples with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, harrowing video footage has rolled out revealing residents holding their pets above floodwaters as they make their way to safety.
Ian made landfall on the island on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm and decimated the Sanibel Causeway, the sole three-mile bridge that connects the island to the Florida mainland. As a section of the causeway has collapsed, the island can now only be reached by boat or helicopter so rescue efforts have become even more difficult.
On Thursday, footage of the Coast Guard airlifting residents to safety began rolling out. One woman holding her cat in its carrier was seen being lifted from waist-deep floodwater.
There are currently more than 6,400 people who live on Sanibel Island year-round, per a 2021 census estimate, but The New York Times noted on Thursday that the number often goes beyond “30,000 at times, as second-home owners and visitors flock there during the peak season.”
In the wake of Ian’s damage on the island, Mayor Holly Smith penned an open letter to her residents on Thursday and said the storm had “forever changed” their community.
“I am struggling to find the words to convey my feelings, as I am sure most of us are as we look to the past four days,” Smith wrote. “All our lives and our island have been forever changed. What we do tomorrow and the days and months ahead will redefine and strengthen our community.”