FORT MYERS, Fla. – Stuck in his home in a flooded neighborhood, Charlie Saah felt dizzy Friday morning and called 911.
It was his fourth day without kidney dialysis treatment.
Dialysis centers were closed. Saah’s generator no longer worked. The streets of his neighborhood in south Fort Myers were inundated with water, doorsteps flush to the waterline. Hurricane Ian brought 16 inches of water into Saah’s garage.
“Everything’s ruined. The car batteries are dead,” Saah said after rescuers drove him to an ambulance through flooded streets on a military jeep. “I’m happy to be out.”
Hurricane Ian’s storm surge and torrential rain left behind a trail of destruction. The contrast between neighborhoods was stark: Across the street from Saah’s flooded neighborhood of colorful cottages stood a yacht and country club, and down the block, tall sturdy villas. Farther down, mobile homes were torn apart in trailer home parks and RV resorts.
On San Carlos Island, 5 miles south before the bridge to decimated Fort Myers Beach, boats were washed ashore to small single-story shopping plazas, warehouses and mobile home neighborhoods, crushing trucks and cars beneath them surrounded by tangles of power lines.
San Carlos Isle Maritime Park, a neighborhood of trailer homes and apartments tucked into the coast next to a shrimp market and marinas, housed working-class residents – handymen, restaurant and fisheries workers. Many rode out the storm in their homes.
Local motorcycle builder Joe Fernandez works in the neighborhood. He stayed so he could help his neighbors, some of whom are immigrants who he said were afraid to shelter elsewhere or seek help.
“I'm young. I can swim. I can stay behind,” he said. “There’s a lot of old people over here that were living the actual American dream. … A lot of these people, they couldn't go nowhere, because they didn't have nobody.”
The Cape Coral-Fort Myers metropolitan area ranks No. 14 nationwide in income inequality, according to a Economic Policy Institute Report. Florida ranks No. 2 of 50 states.
On Friday morning, the 31-year-old was grilling salmon fillets for residents as his four pit bulls perused the disfigured landscape.
“This isn't fair. This is bad. It's really bad. Come on, I mean – it’s been almost three days. Nobody has come checked on these people,” he said. “These people ate yesterday because we cooked. These people drank water yesterday because we brought water.”
The water had risen up to the second floor of Fernandez’s neighborhood shop. He said up to 15 of his neighbors are now homeless.
“I have some stuff I can share with all these people,” he said, “even though I lost everything too. But somebody needs to help them. Somebody.”
Fernandez said many people in the neighborhood were missing. Carlos Hernandez hasn’t heard from his friend Lionel, a restaurant worker, for days. No one has.
“I hope he is fine,” said Hernandez, who sheltered with more than a dozen others on the second floor of his now-muddied apartment building.
As the winds howled, he broke open a window downstairs to save a neighbor whom he heard yelling. The man was clinging to a pillow, floating inside his apartment. Hernandez watched as another neighbor almost drowned. She’s now in the hospital, he said.
Hernandez has lived here for two decades. The restaurant where he works over the bridge in Times Square at Fort Myers Beach is leveled.
“This is like, catastrophic,” he said. “First time on the bridge, when I just see the beach and Times Square, it made me cry.”
In another mobile home neighborhood about a mile north, there were few generators. Shrieks of mangled metal could be heard as residents pulled debris through yards.
Bob Palmer, 83, has been living in his trailer since 1994. Palmer, a former hydraulic repairman in the U.S. Air Force, rode out the storm on his bed. The 4 inches of rain in his home had receded, and the air was damp. His neighbors brought him water and checked on him.
“I can’t do much anymore. That aggravates me,” he said. “This campground is like a family. I’m very blessed to have good friends.”
Meanwhile, half of Sharon Popham’s trailer home was shattered. The 72-year-old woman and her niece tried salvaging what they could Friday morning, tiptoeing around broken glass. Popham worries about displacing her disabled son.
She doesn’t have a job to go back to – the sandal factory where she worked was on Fort Myers Beach. “There's nothing there (now),” she said. “I'm trying to save as much as I can. … I've already applied to FEMA.”
At MaryAnn Galante’s mobile home, windows were blown out, “but we’re all alive,” she said. She and her daughter were walking to a food relief center.
“It’s very, very scary looking down roads and all you see is water, hanging streetlights,” she said. “It's a nightmare, but we're alive.”
Though water damaged the inside of her mobile home, she’s thankful it still stands. “I’ll have to wash eventually, if we ever get plumbing and stuff to clean,” she said.
Galante and her husband, a mechanic, and her daughter, who works at Walmart, moved here a year ago. She has experienced hurricanes before. But this one, she said, was different.
“I feel like I'm in a war zone,” she said. “This is just horrific."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'A nightmare': Fort Myers mobile home residents mourn neighborhoods