Hurricane Ian lasted just a few hours over southwest Florida.
It will take several months to clean up all the damage. Maybe longer. And some of the damage simply cannot be cleaned up.
From trees being pulled from the ground to signs being torn up, traffic lights hitting the road and some buildings being destroyed, the impact was widespread and few survived. The only difference between one place and another is the severity of the problem.
“We’re going to get through this,” said Sanibel, Fla., Deputy Mayor Richard Johnson. “And we’ll come out the other side better than when we went in.”
Maybe, but it’s going to be a tall order, from cosmetic to key and everything in between.
Fort Myers Beach is simple and destroyed. The business is gone. Jobs are clearly lost, at least temporarily. The cleanup will take weeks and will almost certainly have to happen before any rebuilding.
“Our entire staff is safe and despite the incredible damage to the restaurant, the building is structurally intact,” the owners of Nervous Nellie’s, a seafood restaurant on the beach, said in a statement. to solve this problem and come out stronger than ever.”
Around the area – Naples, Fort Myers, Sanibel – the level of destruction cannot be ignored. Countless signs outside businesses were damaged, torn or just disappeared along the area’s main thoroughfare, US 41. The steel column with the street sign on the ground bent backwards, unable to withstand Ian’s wind and force. The storage room garage door was twisted, sending some of the space’s contents into the air. Most traffic lights were out, and in some cases, wires were dangling from the road below.
In one instance, a metal traffic sign directing drivers to Interstate 75 was crushed by an electronic traffic sign warning drivers to close their lanes.
“I saw something,” said Clark Manchin, the construction project manager, as he assessed the chaos. “I’ve never seen one.”
Patience wears off quickly. A 7-11 worker pleaded with people crowding her store: No $20, please. Small value bills only. “If I run out of change, we have to close the door,” she pleaded. No gas, no hot food, and – because there’s no running water – no coffee or bathrooms.
“I didn’t take it seriously,” said Mark Crow of Naples. “I didn’t stock up. I didn’t get in the car. It’s a mess, man. It’s not good.”
Thankfully, most of the damage is only cosmetic. The 150-foot-high (50-meter) and 250-yard (220-meter) deep net that surrounds the top golf facility in Fort Myers was torn and swayed in the afternoon breeze, not far from where the American flag was torn. Electric poles in an office building. At Florida Gulf Coast University, a set of stands — once on the sidelines of a football field — blew midway through the field, eventually crushing a goal.
Other damage is much more serious. Fragments of a damaged golf cart floated in deep water Thursday at an RV park in Fort Myers long after the storm dissipated. Downed power lines and destroyed utility poles were connected to block the entrance. Across the street is a barn-like building under construction. Its walls collapsed and the roof had broken wood nailed to the ground.
Damage assessment and clean-up work has only just begun.
“We have to be patient,” Sanibel City Councilman John Henshaw said. “We have to start thinking about where we’re going to stay and live for a long time. Not knowing exactly what. We’ll learn more as we go through the process.”