It’s the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico that bring people to Fort Myers Beach, but they unleashed the fury of Hurricane Ian on Wednesday afternoon.
A tsunami-like storm surge of 3 m (10 ft) in places swept away homes and businesses.
The waterfront has been leveled – now dotted with the remains of the shops and restaurants that made it a busy tourist resort.
T-shirts and baseball caps from the gift shop, pots and pans from the seafood cafe and glasses from the bar are partially obscured by brown sediment, reminders of what once was.
A little further down the road, the staircase is all that remains of the orange house by the sea.
The story of its residents is told by their neighbor, Ron Shepherd, who watched as the house was lifted from its foundation by the flow of water.
“I was on the balcony and I saw it float by,” he says. “There were three people and a dog inside and we shouted at them to get out and grab onto another house they were passing which was unoccupied. They got out, but it blew them away. One guy was holding onto a palm tree for two. minutes, but then he disappeared, the water was moving so fast.”
No one who stayed in Fort Myers Beach like Hurricane Jan came ashore, expecting it to be so violent or cause so much damage.
Wyatt and Brooke Jordan lived with their four children in a building near the waterfront.
“The water came up pretty quickly,” Wyatt said. “I’ve lived in Florida my whole life and I’ve never seen anything like it. We went to bed Tuesday night and thought it was headed for Tampa, and then we woke up and it was behind us.”
So many people seem to have been surprised by the path this storm took, but also by the vast area it covered and how slowly it moved.
This is what will result in the highest costs for Florida, both in lives lost and in recovery.