Fort Myers Beach, Florida – Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida, the town of Fort Myers Beach is now allowing residents and business owners to return to the area to begin the next steps in the recovery process.
Most residents of Fort Myers Beach have left the island since they were evacuated when Hurricane Ian approached the area in late September.
“Saving lives and retrieving bereaved remains has been a top priority since the storm,” said Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy. “We are now ready to move on to the next step in the recovery process.”
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Residents, property and business owners, and insurance adjusters began entering Fort Myers Beach at 7 a.m. Sunday.
However, anyone returning to the island must bring an ID or proof of residency to enter.
Hurricane Ian leaves scars visible from space in its path of destruction
Fort Myers Beach still without electricity, no water
When returning to Fort Myers Beach, people need to know some important information.
According to town officials, there is still no electricity, water, wastewater service or garbage collection in the area.
Also, as Hurricane Ian destroyed trees and utility lines in the area, crews continued to make repairs, so internet and cell phone service were not fully functional.
Town officials warned that many buildings had been damaged or destroyed, and almost all of them were inaccessible.
There is also no food, no water, and no business on the island.
The 7pm curfew also remains in effect.
The island was also covered by 12 to 18 feet of storm surge, which damaged the structural integrity of many homes and businesses. Electricity systems across the island were also damaged.
Damage is ‘catastrophic’
Town officials are issuing notices to people returning to Fort Myers Beach, warning the damage to homes and businesses would be “catastrophic.”
Will Nunley, FOX Weather Multimedia Reporter On Fort Myers Beach, residents began returning to investigate the damage and start picking up the pieces.
Nunley spoke with Fort Myers Beach resident Tim Newman, who said he had been back on the island for a few days and felt that people would rebuild what was lost.
“There are 20 buildings here,” he said, pointing to the ruins behind him. “Gone. The parking lot – gone. It’s amazing.”
Newman said he spoke with a neighbor who has lived on the island for 47 years and said he would rebuild.
“He was in that house that was knocked down for 47 years,” he said. “He’s rebuilding. He already told me.”
Nunley said he has been watching people sort through the debris and recover as much as possible.
“It’s going to be an extraordinary few hours and days for the people who come back,” Nunley said. “It’s one thing to see this on TV, right? To see the panorama we’re giving people from the sky. But here, walking through this, seeing the reaction of people going back to what could be their only home start over and try It’s really amazing to find anything that might be left in there.”