A powerful storm surge from Hurricane Ian wiped out an entire section of a massive bridge in Florida, leaving residents of the barrier island city Sanibel cut off from the mainland Thursday morning.
The staggering damage to the Sanibel Causeway reportedly occurred right after the toll booth on the outbound span to the island, which is home to about 7,500 people.
Where the bridge once started to rise over San Carlos Bay from Punta Rassa now resembles a cliff, with crumbled ribbons of concrete lying in the water and a large gap in the span, according to photos published by The Tampa Bay Times.
A spiral staircase was decimated and strewn into the brush next to a wayward pickup truck near the destroyed section of the span, the paper reported. A boat trailer and other debris were also littered about, photos show.
Two cars trying to reach the island early Thursday morning had to turn around before they reached the wreckage, warned by an endlessly bleating alarm by the toll plaza, the report said. One of the vehicles contained a group of young men who were trying to reach a friend.
Ian and its 155-mile-per-hour winds first made landfall in the US Wednesday afternoon several miles north of the disaster scene, in North Captiva Island, which is just west of Fort Myers and Cape Coral.
It was downgraded to a tropical storm with wind speeds of 65 miles per hour as it moved across the peninsula Thursday morning. Ian was expected to gain strength when it hit the Atlantic Ocean Thursday afternoon before slamming into South Carolina Friday afternoon, weather models show.
Millions of Floridians woke up in the dark from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Thursday as officials assessed the damage from the monster storm.