An army of 42,000 utilities restored power to more than 2.5 million businesses and homes in Florida after Hurricane Ian hit, and Brenda Palmer’s place is among them. According to the government, she and her husband, Ralph, are part of a success story.

But turning on the lights in a dilapidated mobile home, likely beyond repair and smelling of dried river mud and mold, isn’t much consolation to people who lost a lifetime of work to a few hours of wind, rain and rising seas. Sorting through wet old photos of her children in the shadowy ruins of the shed, Palmer couldn’t help but cry.

“Everybody says, ‘You can’t keep it all, Mom,'” she said. “You know, this is my life. This is my life. It’s gone.”

With the main search for victims over and much of the southwest Florida coast beginning the long work of rebuilding after a rare direct hit by a major hurricane, residents are bracing for what will be months, if not years, of work. It will be difficult to mourn a lost relic; will also struggle with insurance companies and decisions about what to do next.

Around the corner from the Palmers in Couch Light Estates, a retirement community of 179 mobile homes that were flooded by two creeks and a canal, a sad realization hit Susan Colby sometime between the first time she saw her wet home after Jan and Sunday as she sorted through its remains. .

“I’m 86 years old and I’m homeless,” she said. “It’s just crazy. That is, I never dreamed in my life that I would not have a home. But he is not there.”

State officials confirmed eight more storm-related deaths late Monday, bringing the death toll in Florida to 102 — just over half of the worst-hit in Lee County, where the powerful Category 4 hurricane made landfall with winds of 155 miles per hour (259 kilometers per hour) September 28 Overall, the storm killed 111 people, including five deaths in North Carolina, one in Virginia, and three in Cuba.

It was the third deadliest storm to hit the continental US this century, after Hurricane Katrina, which killed nearly 1,400 people, and Hurricane Sandy, which killed 233 people, despite , that it weakened to a tropical storm before making landfall.

At a makeshift memorial in a downtown park along the Caloosahatchee River, Holly Harmon broke down in tears Monday as she placed yellow roses next to photos of people who died in the storm. She said it was the first time she was able to visit because she had to wait for an inspector from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess the damage to her home.

“I’m just heartbroken for so many people that we’ve known and grown up with and everything they’ve lost,” Harmon, 27, said.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis praised his administration for the early stages of recovery, including running water and restoring lights and erecting a temporary bridge to Pine Island, much remains to be done. Mountains of garbage still need to be removed; it’s hard to find a road that doesn’t have waterlogged carpets, ruined furniture, moldy mattresses and broken-down houses.

On their way to Estera Island, the site of the worst damage to the Fort Myers beach, workers use heavy machinery with huge grabs to rake debris from the marshland and pile it into trucks. Boats of all sizes, from dinghies to huge fishing vessels, block roads and sit on buildings.

DeSantis said at least part of the road map for the coming months in Southwest Florida could come from the Florida Panhandle, where Category 5 Hurricane Michael devastated Mexico Beach and much of Panama City in 2018. Panama City leaders will be brought in to provide advice on the cleanup, DeSantis said at a weekend news conference.

“They’re going to get down on the ground, they’re going to do an inspection and then they’re going to give advice to local authorities here in Lee County, Fort Myers Beach and other places,” DeSantis said. “You can do what you want. You don’t have to take their advice. But I’m telling you, it was a serious, serious effort.”

In a region full of retirees, many of whom have moved south to escape the cold of northern winters, Luther Marth worries that some may have a harder time recovering from John’s psychological impact than the physical destruction. Two men in their 70s have already committed suicide after seeing the destruction, officials said.

In 2017, Hurricane Irma hit Fort Myers, but Mart said the storm was nothing like Ian, and the emotional toll would be greater, especially for seniors.

“I am 88 years old. People my age are struggling,” said Mart, who considers himself and his wife, Jacqueline, lucky despite losing their car and thousands of dollars worth of fishing gear, tools and more when their garage was filled more than 5 feet (1.52 meter) of water.

“When you’ve been wiped out financially, you don’t want to start over. You don’t want to start over, Mart said. “So those are the people my heart breaks for.”