Hurricane Ian Sweeps Through Lee County and Sanibel, Florida


Ashley Ragone

From September 28th to October 1st, Hurricane Ian pummeled the state of Florida. In just those few days, the Lee County area on the west coast of Florida experienced record-breaking weather conditions, which caused perhaps some of the most catastrophic damage in United States history. With some praising Governor DeSantis and others infuriated over evacuation hesitance, this disaster surely won’t be forgotten any time soon.

At around 3 pm on September 28th, the ferocious, nearly Category 5 storm, made landfall in Cayo Costa (a small barrier island near Fort Myers).  With winds already hitting 150 mph, destruction was inevitable but perhaps it was even worse than anticipated. As Ian moved farther inland and unleashed its power, over 3 million people lost power, thousands of flights into and out of the area were canceled, several universities closed their doors leaving stranded students and more than  125 people lost their lives.  The financial impact is significant, with thousands of people losing their homes and/or businesses.  The affected area was seemingly unprepared for this level of destruction. The last event that comes anywhere close to the ferocity of Ian was Hurricane Charley in 2004, which also made landfall in the Cayo Costa area; but in the last 18 years, another such event wasn’t anticipated. 

One of the areas many are watching is Sanibel Island. A barrier island off the coast of Fort Myers, it is a popular vacation spot known for its expansive beaches, which are world renowned for shelling.   Nearly every structure on Sanibel sustained some degree of damage and some were actually washed out to seat entirely.   The Sanibel Causeway, the only road linking the island to the mainland, was severed in five different locations.  Acting with unprecedented speed, Florida’s Governor had the Causeway to Sanibel (as well as the severed bridge to Pine Island) reopened in less than one month following temporary, emergency repairs.  This enabled repair crews to more easily and quickly enter the island (the entire electrical grid was destroyed and is being reestablished, for one), as well as residents, on a limited basis, and subject to a curfew for safety purposes.  Whatever your political beliefs, it must be noted that DeSantis’ early measures to quickly address the aftermath of Ian are commendable and also, perhaps, unprecedented. 


With residents and business owners now returning to Sanibel, many have taken to social media to share their stories and photos with their loyal customers, revealing the kind of damage that was left behind.  It is shocking.  Smaller businesses such as Gene’s Books, the Mad Hatter restaurant and several island seashell sellers have shared how severe flooding – from a storm surge that reached six feet and higher – has destroyed their establishments.  They are in dire need of financial support, as are their displaced employees.  Unfortunately, the ramifications of Ian are not fully realized.  There are now reports of toxic ocean water, causing bacterial infections and disease.  There has been a substantial loss of wildlife, severe beach erosion and of course, the beautiful, lush foliage has been decimated.   As the Lee County area slowly recovers from this natural disaster, it is important to donate to these businesses and keep this vacation destination in your hearts.