After the eye of Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc over Florida on Wednesday, striking videos have surfaced showing heroic rescues of people stranded in submerged cars and wading in floodwaters, as well as heartbreaking video of the widespread devastation left in the storm’s wake.
Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday morning after making landfall near Cayo Costa around 3 p.m. Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 mph.
But the threat is far from over.
As Floridians grapple with rushing floodwaters, life-threatening storm surges and a blackout affecting more than 2 million people — glimmers of hope have emerged in videos showing how the communities have stepped up to protect one another.
Heroes run to the rescue
During a live broadcast Wednesday, an Australian cameraman was seen dropping his camera and running into floodwaters to help families wading to safety amid fierce winds.
Broadcast video shows Glen Ellis with 7News place his equipment on the ground to run into the floods and help a family with young children carry their belongings to higher ground, then go back in to aid another local.
When Ellis returned to the camera, reporter Tim Lester praised his co-worker saying, “Good work, Glen! Glen rushing out there and helping some people in.”
In Naples, the Naples Fire-Rescue Department shared video showing the rescue of a woman from a submerged vehicle Wednesday.
An officer is seen shattering the window of a white car halfway under water to extricate the woman, place her in a life jacket and guide her to safety.
"Please let this be a lesson to stay off the roads when flooding is possible," the department said in the caption.
A group of good Samaritans called the “Collier County Cowboys” were also filmed conducting a water rescue, saving an elderly man found in a car filling with water in Bonita Springs.
The video shows the moment the man is lifted from the vehicle and two men carry him through waist-deep water looking for a safe place to hunker down.
Ian's aftermath: Locals wade in floodwaters, streets turned into rivers
Ian's wrath in Florida is not yet over, with the storm forecast to bring “catastrophic” flooding over east-central Florida on Thursday morning, as well as life-threatening flooding, storm surge, gusty winds and possible tornadoes, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Videos uploaded online show the havoc the storm left in its wake and how quickly it came ashore, submerging entire neighborhoods.
A time-lapse video captured from the Florida 511 traffic network system in Fort Myers shows Ian's storm surge pushing into a dry neighborhood, quickly transforming it into an unrecognizable rushing river over the course of an hour and a half.
For locals, surviving the hurricane was a frightening ordeal.
Renee Smith of Punta Gorda, Florida, told MSNBC on Thursday that she rode out the storm by hiding under the kitchen table, creating a makeshift fort with pillows and blankets.
Protecting herself wasn't her only concern — she also had to protect her husband, who has prostate cancer and is paralyzed from the chest down. He was supposed to undergo surgery this week, but the operation was canceled due to the storm.
She called the experience “terrifying,” and recalled how she covered her husband in blankets, placed him in a life jacket, zip-tied him to the hospital bed in her home, and put pillows around him to protect him as Ian passed.
Smith said her husband was traumatized, but alive, and Ian was far worse than Hurricane Charley, which she survived 18 years ago.
“Charley was less than an hour, the sun came out afterwards, there was no torrential rain,” she said, but even the back of Ian’s eyewall was “awful.”
“Long lasting, as powerful as the front, you could hear the chimney getting ripped off the roof and coming down right above my head on the roof. I was afraid it was going to come through the roof and crush me,” Smith said.
In multiple cities, Ian destroyed streets and entire neighborhoods. In Tampa, the police department shared a video of a traffic light crashing down in front of a car, huge trees toppled onto the ground and roads covered in debris, while in Naples, Fire-Rescue Department video showed a downed power line exploding into flames.
The rains flooded highways in Boca Raton, and the strong gusts caused a giant tree to come crashing down on a home that appeared to be near Tampa.