Waterfront workers talk about the devastation of Hurricane Ian

For Mitch Stuff and his brother Mike, Fort Myers Beach was their livelihood.

It’s now completely destroyed, they said in an interview Thursday morning.

“The 7-Eleven is gone. The whales are gone. All the restaurants are gone,” Mitch told The News-Press. “The entire Times Square is gone. It’s leveled.”

Fort Myers Beach was hit hard, along with other barrier islands in Lee County. Hurricane Ian Attack on the Florida coastline. Upon landfall, the Category 4 storm sent winds of 150 mph and towering storm surges tearing through the town center.

Boats cross a road on San Carlos Island on Thursday after Hurricane Ian made landfall.

Boats cross a road on San Carlos Island on Thursday after Hurricane Ian made landfall.

Mitch and Mike took refuge on the third floor of the Estero Island Beach Club where Mike worked. From there, they had a front-row view of the chaos. The wave crashed onto Estero Boulevard, destroying the lower floors of the building and washing away vehicles.

“Our car flew in the air,” Mitch said.

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The seaside town’s commercial center was devastated by the hurricane, he said.

“It’s just a concrete pillar standing there. There’s nothing there,” he said. “Fort Myers Beach is Gone”

Thursday morning, the approach to the island on Boulevard San Carlos was a scene of escalating destruction.

A few miles away, a boat that had been ripped from its storage yard the night before could be seen tossed over the road guardrail. First he one, then a pair, then many more. Approaching the Matanzas Pass Bridge, the entire marina building shattered, and the wooden dock twisted and fell apart. A sheriff’s deputy blocked access to Estero Island, saying it was unsafe to cross the bridge.

The Stough brothers spoke to the News-Press after crossing the bridge from Estero Boulevard to their neighborhood on San Carlos Island.

The hurricane wreaked havoc there too. Homes were ravaged by wind and water, shingles peeled off and windows shattered. A boat blocked the middle of the road and was dragged out of the driveway by the storm. Residents appeared shocked and began the monumental task of picking up debris from the lawn and clearing it.

For Mitch and Mike, there was no going back. Mitch said they plan to move to another location.

“There’s nothing here. Our jobs are gone. Our cars are gone. Nothing’s open,” he said. “It’s going to take years to get this back in shape.”

This article originally appeared in the Fort Myers News-Press. Hurricane Ian devastation: Fort Myers Beach seen severe damage