FORT MYERS BEACH — They thought second floors would be safe.
But Hurricane Ian was more brutal than some residents of Fort Myers Beach ever imagined.
Kevin Behen left his studio apartment and hunkered down in a corner room in a stout building by the foot of the bridge into town. The surge licked the second-floor deck. He sprinted upstairs and banged on a door until someone let him in.
“It sounded like there was a tornado coming every five minutes,” Behen said.
The water rose rapidly like a dam had collapsed.
Daybreak on Thursday revealed devastation — another slice of salt-streaked Florida forever altered by a storm.
Blown-out homes blocked side streets, each an eruption of soggy wood and metal. Sand covered the main drag, Estero Boulevard, as if hurling the barrier island back in time.
Beer bottles and kegs spilled out from shattered bars like confetti, and Winds — the beach souvenir shack near the northern edge of town — was a husk. Ian blew out all the shop’s windows, and most of the tile inside, too. Soaked neon swimsuits, hats and sunset-colored T-shirts lay in a wet curl around the building.
The stiff sea breeze was tainted by the smell of natural gas.
Behen took a call from his father as pickup trucks rumbled into the city.