In Lee County, home to the city of Fort Myers, rescue officials said they were overwhelmed with rescue calls and feared significant deaths.
Sheriff Carmine Marceno told ABC's "Good Morning America" that there were thousands of 911 calls and that he believed the death toll would be "in the hundreds."
Rescues have been carried out, he said, but "we still can't access a lot of the people in the waterways, the bridges are compromised and it's a very rough road ahead."
Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson told NBC's "Today" show that no deaths have been reported to him in the city, though there may have been a few in other parts of the metro area.
Anderson said he has been in the area since the 1970s and this was by far the worst storm he has ever witnessed.
“Watching the water from my condo in the heart of downtown, seeing the water rise and flood all the stores on the first floor, it was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.
— Hurricane Ian leaves destruction in southwest Florida, has South Carolina in sight for second U.S. landfall.
— Hurricane Ian hits Florida hospital from above and below
— Tampa Bay drains from Ian's winds, then fills back up
— Ian threatens Florida's already unstable insurance market
— Find more AP coverage here: https://apnews.com/hub/hurricanes
NAPLES, Fla. — Along Interstate 75, the main road connecting the Miami and Naples areas, Texas utility trucks, flanked by pickup trucks with flashing yellow beacons, headed west early Thursday toward the area of Southwest Florida devastated by Hurricane Ian.
Also along that road were pickup trucks loaded with generators, gas cans and other storm recovery supplies.
Naples Fire Chief Pete DiMaria said his firefighters had to wade through water to perform rescues on foot.
"We did a couple of rescues where we had to walk about two blocks from the fire station to rescue a couple who were trapped in their home that was rapidly flooding," DiMaria said Thursday on NBC's "Today."
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, where Ian's second U.S. landfall was forecast as a major tropical storm on Friday, officials ordered no evacuations but warned the storm should be taken seriously.
Flooding appeared to be the main threat, both from rain and days of onshore winds that swept ocean water inland.
DELTONA, Fla. — A 72-year-old man died after going out early Thursday to drain his pool during the storm, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said.
Agents were called to the home in Deltona, near Daytona Beach on Florida's Atlantic coast, around 1 a.m. Thursday.
The man's wife told deputies he disappeared after leaving around 1 a.m. Deputies found his flashlight and later found him in a canal behind his home. The man did not respond, agents said.
They pulled him out of the water and officers performed CPR on him until paramedics arrived, according to the statement.
Investigators said he was apparently using a hose to drain the pool down a hill into a 30-foot-wide channel. The steep descent into the canal was "extremely smooth and slippery due to heavy rain."