PHOTO GALLERY: Photographer steps out with Ian to capture the storm for others | News, Sports, Jobs




In this aerial photo taken on a flight provided by mediccorps.org, damage from Hurricane Ian is visible on the causeway leading to Sanibel Island from Fort Myers, Fla., Friday, September 30, 2022. ( AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Chuck Larsen has lived on Sanibel Island for 12 years and until last week had never experienced a major hurricane. The 76-year-old who moved from California decided to ride out Hurricane Ian at his condo, unaware of the horror he was about to experience.

He filled his tub with water, stocked up on food and water, made sure the batteries were charged and his windows were designed to withstand 150mph (240kph) winds. He followed the forecast thinking that the island would receive strong winds and rain, and trees would fall, but the areas to the north would be hit the hardest.

“I have to tell you, I felt pretty safe, but when the glass exploded and started breaking inside…I realized that was a problem,” said Larsen, who has since “retired to Orlando.”

There was another reason Larsen wanted to stay. He is co-owner and photographer of the local news site santivachronicle.com.

“I stayed to record the event and record the aftermath for publication not realizing exactly how bad this storm was going to be,” Larsen said in a Zoom interview. “I tried to photograph the storm as it happened. The strong winds, the rain, the surging Gulf. After the storm I tried to document what was left, what damage had been done, and it was horrible.

This combined satellite image provided by Planet Labs shows the causeway in Sanibel, Florida, left, taken July 4, 2021, and damage to the pavement taken Friday, September 30, 2022, after a powerful storm passed through the area. A resurrected Hurricane Ian hit the South Carolina coast on Friday, tearing up piers and flooding streets after the severe storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida, trapping thousands of people in their homes and killing several. (Planet Labs via AP)

But without an internet connection or cell phone, he was unable to post any documents until several days later, when he was safely evacuated.

Larsen has spent a career in television and continues to run a television distribution consultancy. His first television job was as a reporter and anchor at an Indianapolis station. One of his colleagues was meteorologist David Letterman.

Larsen was drawn to Sanibel because of its old Florida charm and the community of residents who want to preserve it. The barrier island off Fort Myers has no buildings taller than three stories, no chain restaurants or stores, no traffic lights, and is home to local shops. It is famous for the thousands of seashells that wash up on the beaches and is a scenic and scenic island for tourists.

He and his wife vacationed there for a few years before deciding to move to the island of about 6,500 full-time residents. Sanibel attracts retirees — about 57% of the population is 65 or older — and while it’s not an enclave for the mega-rich, the median value of owner-occupied homes tops $700,000. and its per capita income is over $90,000, both well above state averages.

“At the moment, it’s unlike anything you would remember if you’d ever visited Sanibel. It’s devastated,” said Larsen.

In this undated video image, a damaged vehicle and debris are seen in flood waters on Sanibel Island, Florida. Chuck Larsen’s home was hit by Hurricane Ian and he spent a few harrowing days on the remote island before being evacuated over the weekend. (Chuck Larsen/SantivaChronicle.com via AP)

As he, his wife and two dogs took refuge in an interior room during the storm, he ventured out the next morning with his camera in hopes of getting some footage for his news website, which covers community events, human interest stories and stories about the people of Sanibel. and close to Captiva Island.

“It was like living in a war zone – just decimated properties and condominiums, trees gone, I don’t think there was a car that survived. It was quite dramatic, much worse than what that I have ever experienced. said Larsen.

He and his wife eventually found a boat to take them to the mainland. They stay with a girl in Orlando, without knowing when they will be able to return to their native island. But Larsen is sure they will.

“Sanibel is a very cohesive community. He will rebuild. It won’t happen right away. It will probably happen faster than most people think, but it will require a complete rebuild – electrical grid, water systems – it will take a lot of work, but it will come back. I have no doubt about it.

In this undated image from the video, debris in floodwaters is seen on Sanibel Island, Florida. Chuck Larsen’s home was hit by Hurricane Ian and he spent a few harrowing days on remote Sanibel Island before being evacuated over the weekend. (Chuck Larsen/SantivaChronicle.com via AP)

In this undated video image, a damaged vehicle and debris are seen on Sanibel Island, Florida. Chuck Larsen’s home was hit by Hurricane Ian and he spent a few harrowing days on the remote island before being evacuated over the weekend. (Chuck Larsen/SantivaChronicle.com via AP)

In this undated image from the video, flood waters are seen on Sanibel Island, Florida. Chuck Larsen’s home was hit by Hurricane Ian and he spent a few harrowing days on remote Sanibel Island before being evacuated over the weekend. (Chuck Larsen/SantivaChronicle.com via AP)

In this undated image made from video, Chuck Larsen speaks with a reporter from Orlando, Florida. Larsen’s home was hit by Hurricane Ian and he spent a harrowing few days on the remote island before being evacuated over the weekend. (Chuck Larsen/SantivaChronicle.com via AP)

In this undated video image, damaged vehicles and debris are seen on Sanibel Island, Florida. Chuck Larsen’s home was hit by Hurricane Ian and he spent a harrowing few days on the remote island before being evacuated over the weekend. (Chuck Larsen/SantivaChronicle.com via AP)


Jack C. Nugent