Hurricane Ian has caused widespreadin Florida, leaving much of the state drowning in several feet of water as it . With floodwaters still raging, officials have warned residents to stay indoors and avoid going into it at all costs — and dangerous wildlife is a big reason why.
"Flood water is dangerous," the Collier County government tweeted on Thursday afternoon. "We've received reports of sewage, alligators and snakes in flood water in our community. Please stay away."
While those reports have not been confirmed by CBS News, there has been video footage circulating that demonstrates these risks. A local NBC affiliate reporter posted a video on Thursday showing an alligator swimming through floodwaters in Lake County, saying it looked like it was "about 9, 10 feet." The local fire chief had earlier warned about animals in the floodwaters, she said, adding that the creatures normally wouldn't like to "come out of the swamps."
One viral video shows a mystery creature swimming through a flooded neighborhood in Fort Myers on Wednesday morning. Many suspect the animal – which appears to have fins – was a small shark. Though CBS has not confirmed the authenticity of the video, video licensing agency Storyful said it confirmed the video's authenticity and spoke to local marine and wildlife specialists, who were more skeptical that the creature was a shark.
One expert from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said staff couldn't identify the animal. Marine scientist Rick Bartleson was also unsure, Storyful said, but said that based on the shape of the animal's dorsal fin, he doubts it was a shark or sawfish.
But one thing is known for sure – it's just one more reason to avoid the floodwaters.
Florida Fish and Wildlife officials said Tuesday that "major storms cause wildlife to become more active."
"You may be more likely to see alligators, snakes and bears, so remember to stay alert and give them space," the department said in a Facebook post. It advised anyone who comes across wild animals to report it to the department.
Much of the state saw significant flooding, and some areas expected record-breaking water levels, even inland.
"The amount of water that's been rising, and will likely continue to rise today even as the storm is passing, is basically a 500-year flood event," Governor Ron DeSantis said Thursday morning. "...Some of the flooding you're gonna see in areas hundreds of miles from where this made landfall are gonna set records."
Floodwaters can increase the risk of drowning, and Florida's Division of Emergency Management has warned that the water can be contaminated and be filled with dangerous debris. Underground or fallen power lines, which have been reported throughout the state in Ian's wake, can electrically charge the water — a potentially fatal hazard.
Emergency officials also urged people to not drive through flooded roadways, noting that "nearly half of all people killed in floods are those who try driving through flooded areas." Don't drive around barricades, and if your vehicle stalls, they recommend leaving it immediately.
For areas hardest-hit by storm damage and flooding, the division's director Kevin Guthrie has repeatedly warned that it could be difficult for first responders to get to the scene of an emergency, depending on the level of destruction.
"Please keep in mind that first responders may not be able to immediately enter impacted areas to assist you due to the safety hazards," he said Wednesday evening.
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