Sanibel’s recovery efforts seven months after Hurricane Ian

The Barrier Islands are a commendable display of that endeavor. Throughout that duration, numerous individuals have gone above and beyond to assist others in their locality. Friday signifies seven months since Hurricane Ian arrived on the shores of Southwest Florida.

The remarkable determination and perseverance of the people on Sanibel are clearly evident after witnessing the revival of the island. Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach, in particular, were transformed into unrecognizable communities due to the extensive flooding, destruction, and devastation.

The residents of Sanibel are determined to do whatever is necessary for their community. It is evident that the Causeway and Sanibel experience a considerable volume of traffic, which was reconstructed in under a month following the impact of Hurricane Ian.

Following Hurricane Ian, numerous individuals questioned the recovery and timeframe for Sanibel and its Causeway.

“Truly, every time you utter that, it still gives me shivers,” Councilmember Holly Smith expressed.

Governor Ron DeSantis and the Mayor of Sanibel at that moment, Holly Smith, were present in the chamber. Privately, we have now discovered the events that transpired in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, possibly unveiling them for the very first time, on Friday.

“He looked at me, and he stated that we need to construct that bridge,” Councilmember Smith expressed.

Smith, the recently retired Mayor of Sanibel, admired the governor’s proposal but was uncertain about how he could accomplish it.

Councilmember Smith expressed, “In all honesty, we did not have a specific timeframe and we were uncertain about the duration. It could potentially span several months or even a year. Our discussions with the Governor focused on the possibility of establishing a Ferry service.”

It would be an understatement to say they embarked on a mission.

Councilmember Smith stated, “They managed to transport the utility vehicles after four days, and they commenced excavating the soil after two days.”

Three weeks after Ian washed away two significant sections of the Causeway on October 19, 2022, Desantis declared that it would be accessible to the general public once again.

Cielo stated that the general manager, Marcus Preece, mentioned, “Currently, it’s approximately 8,000 per day. It resembles the number of employees residing in the construction workers’ accommodation. There were about 5,500 cars coming to the island.”

With the opening of the Causeway, establishments like Cielo have experienced a revitalization.

Preece stated, “The parking lot across from his cage contained approximately 10 trees, and one of our dumpsters floated out from it.”

Upon his return to the island, Preece was uncertain whether his restaurant would still be intact.

Preece exclaimed, “It’s astonishing to witness. The whole place was filled with shades of brown, the soil, the muck all around. Simply being transported and strolling along Periwinkle.”

Keith Isaacson and other people enjoyed a good meal and sat down to relax. Cielo became the first restaurant to open on Sanibel. It took less than two months to clean up after the storm.

“The business sector has truly immersed themselves and initiated rapid progress,” Isaacson expressed.

WINK News inquired about Isaacson’s future travel plans.

“Absolutely not,” Isaacson stated firmly.

Tillo Trace had one leg and managed to survive the story-like ordeal of getting out of his surrounded house, despite the debris and water. He and the others helped each other to survive and make it out alive.

When the Coast Guard arrived in Southwest Florida, Tillo was among the individuals who required rescue.

Tillo exclaimed, “It was insane. I had 15 feet of water inundating various sections of my land. I observed from my window as homes at ground-level were completely submerged.”

Tillo, who dedicated his life to his artistry, had been hit by a major storm in the Southwest of Florida in the last few decades.

Tillo said, “Every day, we were told to go to Tampa. It was like Charlie turned it last minute, there was a lot.”

As he navigated his dwelling, Tillo struggled to endure the onslaught of water engulfing his residence. Having successfully weathered the night and reached the following morning, Tillo resolved to remain in the area.

“Sliding on that darn mud… Attempting to tidy up my lower level,” Tillo expressed.

He broke his foot while gathering the fragments of his life.

“I knew I had to leave the island to seek medical care,” Tillo stated.

And Tillo proceeded to hobble to safety.

Tillo expressed, “Indeed, that would be excellent.” And I responded, “Indeed, that would be excellent.” Furthermore, they observed my limping and the burden of numerous heavy bags that I carried. Subsequently, they lowered the car window and uttered, “Pardon me, sir, do you require assistance?” Astonishingly, an individual had recently installed a fresh starter and a new battery in the vehicle. In addition, they rolled down the window and inquired, “Pardon me, sir, do you require assistance?” It was evident that the car had previously been submerged in water. Miraculously, right after I finished my prayer, an unexpected car suddenly appeared.

And after seven months, Sanibel is starting to appear recognizable.

Since the Causeway reopened, there has been a daily arrival of 5,500 people to the island, and at present, that number has risen to 8,000.

The News WINK asked the City of Sanibel what the estimated population on the island is, but it’s difficult to gauge an accurate number due to the challenging nature of people living on the island.