Treasure Coast reported limited flooding and wind damage
A Vero Beach man kayaked across a flooded street to check on his neighbors as Hurricane Ian grew in strength and size.
Near downtown Stuart, it was neighbors — and family — helping neighbors as people grabbed chainsaws, rakes and tools to cut down a fallen poinciana, downed by high winds that blew all the way. Wednesday night from Hurricane Ian and then a huge, powerful Category 4 storm hitting the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Port St. Lucie police helped free a family trapped indoors Thursday after a tree fell, blocking off the garage and front door of their locked home that had no power.
Across the Treasure Coast, friends, families, neighbors and first responders united during and after Hurricane Ian as nearly 130,000 people lost power while tropical storm-force winds and bands of rain blew in the region from Tuesday afternoon.
Most households and businesses regained power Friday evening, according to Florida Power & Light’s online power tracking map. Nearly 2,900 Fort Pierce Utility Authority customers temporarily lost power.
Ian landed at 3:10 p.m. Wednesday near Cayo Costa, an island off Fort Myers. Sustained winds were 150 mph.
For much of Wednesday, the Treasure Coast, and in particular Indian River County, received waves of blinding bands of rain as the outer bands of the storm passed over the state.
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In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, there were scattered reports of damage to businesses, homes, marinas, boats, and other property.
Early assessments suggest there were no storm-related deaths or injuries in the tri-county area.
While Martin County chose not to open shelters, Indian River County provided protection to 75 people who checked into one of three emergency shelters. Another 33 people stayed at one of three shelters operated in St. Lucie County.
Closures occurred throughout the Treasure Coast before and after Hurricane Ian made landfall. Schools, government offices, courts, public transit and parks closed or canceled events Wednesday and Thursday.
By Friday, most closed operations had reopened. Martin County Schools and Indian River State College reopened on Friday.
Public schools in St. Lucie and Indian River County, however, remain closed through Monday after district officials reported power outages in several schools and surrounding areas.
Ian brought the wind and the rain
Tropical storm-force winds above 40 mph with gusts reaching 66 mph were felt in Indian River, St. Lucia and Martin counties on Wednesday and Thursday. Vero Beach recorded the strongest gust of wind, measured at 66 mph around 1 a.m. Thursday.
Tropical storm warnings were lifted early Thursday for St. Lucia and Martin counties. The warning was canceled for Indian River County around 8 p.m. that night, except for its adjacent coastal waters.
Beaches along the tri-county region could still see storm surges of up to 2ft expected through Sunday evening, according to the National Weather Service, Melbourne.
Parts of the region accumulated up to 8 inches of rain Tuesday and Wednesday, meteorologists said.
Martin County appears to have had the most rain, estimated between 3 and 8 inches. Fort Pierce received 3-7 inches and approximately 5-6 inches of rain was reported in areas west of Port St. Lucie. Between 3 and 6 inches of rain were reported at Sebastian, Vero Beach and Wabasso.
For Vero Beach, Wednesday’s rain set a record for the date with 3.95 inches, the National Weather Service said. It broke the 1992 record of 2.7 inches, which fell on September 28 of the same year when Tropical Storm Earl formed east of the Treasure Coast.
Hurricane Ian also had its impact on nature. High tides, high waves and windy conditions from the storm disrupted sea turtle nests on Fort Pierce Inlet’s south jetty, unearthing buried eggs. This left the eggs exposed to birds which pecked at them.
Each county suffered varying degrees of damage to marinas, beaches, roads and property. Here is a summary by county of Hurricane Ian’s impact through Friday:
Indian River County
Overall, Ian’s impact on the county was relatively minimal, emergency management coordinator Ryan Lloyd said Thursday as the county wrapped up its storm response operations.
County Administrator Jason Brown said Thursday that 20,850 FPL customers were still without power; teams were working to restore households, focusing first on critical infrastructure.
“We were lucky that we didn’t have too much damage,” Brown said.
- Winds caused minor damage to at least one home in the Village Green mobile home park in Vero Beach
- Jack Diehl, 73, kayaked Wednesday through 10th Yard, Vero Beach, to check on flood-affected neighbors in the community
- Indian River Boulevard was closed south of Royal Palm Boulevard on Thursday due to a downed power line over the road
- A 21st Street and US 1 railroad crossing had snapped in two and fell onto the train tracks
- Vero Inn sign on US 1 collapsed during storm
St. Lucia County
The storm scattered hundreds of sea turtle eggs Thursday along the south shore of Fort Pierce Inlet
Debbie McManus, 66, broke down in tears on Thursday morning when she walked onto the beach and saw hundreds of sea turtle eggs.
“It was a shock,” she said. “I didn’t expect to see this.”
High tides, high waves and windy conditions from the storm likely disrupted sea turtle nests on the beach. The nesting season for sea turtles extends from March to October.
- Four boats sank Thursday at Causeway Cove Marina in Fort Pierce. Marina manager Harold “Buzz” Smyth estimated the damage between the boats and the docks at millions of dollars
- White City Park, located at 2081 W. Midway Road in Fort Pierce, flooded Thursday
- Midway Road, Torino Parkway and Easy Street in St. Lucia County were closed Thursday due to flooding
- Multiple traffic lights were reported throughout the county, including several along US 1
The body of an unidentified 34-year-old man was discovered Wednesday morning in about 10 inches of standing water in a residential area along Southwest Lost River Road near the Kanner Freeway approaching the Interstate 95, to Stuart. Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said the man had come to a home to do construction work when it emerged he had died of natural causes.
“There are no signs of foul play…no signs of bodily trauma,” Snyder said Wednesday. “It’s possible, based on medical history, that it’s natural.”
- A possible tornado caused roof damage to a mobile home Tuesday night in the community of Fork River Estates in Martin County. The National Weather Service only received reports of wind damage rather than a tornado, but locals believed the latter was the reason for the damage.
- A 25ft Catalina sailboat broke loose in the early morning hours from its anchor in the Jensen Beach mooring field on Thursday
- Rainfall from Hurricane Ian in western Martin County triggered channel discharges into the St. Lucie River
- Residents of Tropical Farms and Palm City Farms complained of flooding from the swollen South Fork of the St. Lucia River during the 8:25 a.m. high tide on Thursday.
- On Friday, Martin County Sheriff’s officials dispatched a self-contained 15-person crew to assist with Hurricane Ian’s “ground zero” on Florida’s Gulf Coast and to assist law enforcement.
Contributing writers Lina Ruiz, Olivia McKelvey, Jon Santucci, Colleen Wixon, Thomas Weber, Will Greenlee, Corey Arwood, Laurie K. Blandford, Ed Killer, Mauricio LaPlante, and Lamaur Stancil.
Melissa E. Holsman is a legal affairs reporter for TCPalm and Treasure Coast Newspapers, and is the editor and co-host of Uncertain Terms, a true crime podcast. Contact her at [email protected]