The barrier islands along Florida’s southwest coast were hit hard by John. Several of them are cut off from traffic due to the fact that the bridge collapsed.

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — Cars remain stranded on the roadway in Fort Myers Beach after stalling when Hurricane Jan the storm swamped their engines and the drivers were unable to continue. Broken trees, boat trailers and other debris litter the road.

It’s even worse in the seaside tourist town, much of which was destroyed by strong winds and a powerful storm surge from the Category 4 hurricane.

The barrier islands along Florida’s southwest coast, known for their seashells, fishing and laid-back lifestyle, have taken Jan’s top hits when he went ashore on Wednesday. Sanibel and Captiva are cut off from traffic because the only bridge to the mainland has partially collapsed. Nearby Pine Island was also devastated.

At Cottage Point Mobile Home Park in Fort Myers Beach, William Goodison and his son, Curtis, rolled two trash cans filled with the remains of his belongings through knee-deep water Thursday. Portable air conditioner. Some tools. And a baseball bat.

But his furniture and family memorabilia disappeared when a 5ft (1.5m) wave of water crashed into 60 homes of pensioners and working people. The Goodison single-wide trailer he had called home for 11 years – he had just one payment left – was destroyed. He couldn’t get insurance because of his location.

“I own the land but I’m going to have to dispose of the trailer,” said Goodison, a carpenter. “Rebuild now…” he said, his voice trailing off at the thought. “But you need a place to live.”

Goodison moved the storm at Curtis’ house inland. Otherwise, he said, he would probably be dead.

“I don’t know how anyone could survive there,” he said.

Goodison said he lost many family photos and memorabilia. “We will have to start building new ones,” he said.

In a small shopping center near Durban, Patel and her family wrapped yellow caution tape around the 10-foot (3-meter) pile that was the pumping area of ​​their gas station. A wooden awning covering the pumps and protecting customers from the rain collapsed, smashing the pumps. Inside the store, the roof also collapsed. She believes that the business, which the family has owned for two years, is completely lost, but it is insured.

Patel said she was stunned when she arrived at the store Thursday to find it reduced to twisted metal and a pile of wood.

“I thought, ‘Where’s my shop?'” she said. The other six stores in the strip mall also sustained heavy damage, and a mobile home in the parking lot was flipped on its side.

At Get Away Marina, a storm surge picked up a dozen large boats — up to 48 feet (14 meters) long — and carried them across a parking lot and four-lane road before abandoning them in a mangrove reserve. The surge also blew away the walls of the marina offices and flattened the second floor.

“It must have been a big storm,” said Robert Leisure, who has owned the marina for two years. He said he and his staff have put a lot of work into beautifying the docks, which are mostly gone now, and beautifying the grounds.

“We had a Tiki hut over there,” he said, pointing to an empty spot. “It was very sweet,” he said of his business, “but nothing more.” He thought for a moment as he contemplated the restoration work to come, “But where do we begin?”

As he spoke, charter fishing captain Larry Conley approached and asked Leisure if he had seen Conley’s 24-foot (7.3m) boat.

“No, but it should be over there somewhere,” Leiser said, pointing to the mangroves.

Conley said he has insurance on the boat, but it’s not enough — he needs to get the fishermen out. “This is how I pay the bills and survive,” he said.

Eric Siefert, 62, a Sanibel resident, was one of dozens of people evacuated from the barrier island on Thursday. The rescuers brought equipment to the island in small boats and brought people in, a dozen and a half or so at a time.

“I thought that since I have a concrete house with hurricane shutters and storm windows, everything would hold up,” Siffert said. “And for the most part it worked out that way. We just didn’t think we’d get an 18-foot storm surge.”

He estimated Siefert’s home to be more than a block from the beach and about 6 feet (2 meters) above sea level. His house is also elevated, so the living area is about 10 feet (3 meters) off the ground.

The water ended up rising about a foot above the base of Siefert’s brand new sliding storm door, and only about an inch of water leaked into the house, Siefert said. Although the inside was relatively free of water, Siefert said fear and uncertainty prompted him to lift his disabled wife onto a dresser.

“It was literally like being in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico,” Siffert said. “The water was coming across several football fields and over a street and a half, and it was coming right at us, and it was coming up, and it wasn’t going to stop coming up.”

Associated Press writers Kurt Anderson and David Fisher contributed to this report.