Ian Damages Sanibel Island, a Popular Tourist Destination (VIDEO)

A popular tourist destination in Florida, Sanibel Island was hard hit by Hurricane Ian, and rescuers had a hard time.

The trip to Sanibel Island is a dreaded one. It’s Mayor Holly Smith’s first look at the damage since she was evacuated before Hurricane Ian’s brutal attack on Florida’s southwest coast.

“This was a complicated storm because we couldn’t see where it was headed,” Smith said. “It turned out to be the perfect storm for everything we’ve been afraid of for decades.”

Sanibel is now only accessible by air or boat. Hurricane Ian swept large parts of the bridge bridge away.

“Our island is a gem,” Smith said. “People come from all over the world to see our island.”

It is a tourist destination that also attracts the nature lovers who have made it home, such as Eden Sherman.

“We’ve moved for nature and the wildlife,” said Sherman. “It’s amazing, so amazing, the beaches and the seashells. So peaceful. It’s going to take years to get back to normal.”

Sherman’s house is surrounded by growing rainwater. She nervously waited for it with her dogs, just like Michelle and Wetty Hermann, who brought six of their dogs to higher ground in their home.

“We took the highest possible space, on the kitchen counter with one of those floats in the pool,” Whitty said. “If only they were all tied up and we’d plan if we had to float out the front door.”

New Zealand’s John Money was allowed to board a ferry that was carrying residents from the island, provided he could not leave to look at land. But even the view from the boat showed signs of destruction.

The island, with a population of just under 7,000, is a microcosm of the post-hurricane problems of southwest Florida - where there is no water, no electricity, and no impassable roads that make the task difficult for rescuers.

“Search and rescue continues as we speak. We’re going to everyone in need. We’ll get through this,” said Sheriff Carmen Marcino of Lee County.

But for now, the way forward is a slow-moving exit from Paradise Lost.

On the ferry with Mayor Smith, Newsy learned of two confirmed deaths linked to the storm. This number may rise in the coming days.