Sanibel Island Assesses Storm's 'Biblical' Destruction

Causeway is out, leaving remaining residents stranded
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2022 2:00 PM CDT
Sanibel Island Assesses Storm's 'Biblical' Destruction
Residents of Sanibel Island are moved to a waiting Coast Guard helicopter Friday.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Putting Sanibel Island back together after Hurricane Ian hit is going to take a while, Florida officials said. "The damage is catastrophic, and it is biblical," city manager Dana Souza told the Today show. The first step is comprehending the scale of the destruction. "Residents who have lived on Sanibel for many, many years, just can’t even understand the damage that we've experienced," Souza said. People who didn't evacuate before the storm hit now are stranded because the causeway was wrecked in several places; the island is accessible only by boat and helicopter. "Our first priority is to get those who are stranded to safety," Mayor Holly Smith said, per NPR.

Crews also are trying to account for the missing. Homes were destroyed, particularly beach cottages, though CNN—which posted before-and-after photos here—reports most island residences are damaged but still standing. For now, barges are carrying supplies and heavy equipment to the island. Volunteers have supplied boats to ferry people, but boating to and from the island will be more complicated now, a meteorologist said, per WFLA. "There's going to be a ton of debris in the water. The shoals will have changed, the sandbars will have changed," Rebecca Barry said. "So they're going to take it really slowly."

The island will be without bridge access to the rest of the state for a while. The causeway has breaks in five spots, Souza said. In spots, the storm surge washed out sand under the causeway. A photojournalist described the damage as he flew over the bridge in a helicopter on Friday afternoon. "You can see where the roadway just completely buckled," Jim Hockett said. "And then if you come along the causeway this way, it's just completely washed out. It's just—gone. The bridge is completely gone here. The pilings are gone, the deck is gone. There's no road at all." (Read more Hurricane Ian stories.)

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