Hurricane Ian 1 month later: Images show destruction left in hardest-hit regions

Parts of Southwest Florida that were left unrecognizable in the wake of Hurricane Ian are still cleaning up the remnants of the widespread destruction one month after the monster storm made landfall.

Hurricane Ian reduced entire neighborhoods to rubble in places like Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island after it ripped through Southwest Florida with Category 4 winds and menacing storm surge on Sept. 28.

MORE: Florida seeing 'abnormal' increase in flesh-eating bacteria cases due to Hurricane Ian

So far, cleanup and recovery has been a slow and painstaking process, Holly Smith, mayor of Sanibel Island, told ABC News.

Recent images out of the regions hardest hit by the monster storm show the magnitude of work that remains to pave the way for rebuilding.

PHOTO: Remains of destroyed restaurants, shops and other businesses are seen almost one month after Hurricane Ian landfall in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, October 26, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)
PHOTO: Remains of destroyed restaurants, shops and other businesses are seen almost one month after Hurricane Ian landfall in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, October 26, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

A photo out of Fort Myers Beach shows piles of rubble that remain among foundations torn apart by winds topping 150 mph. The area, flanked by restaurants and businesses, was previously frequented by tourists and locals.

PHOTO: Vehicles drive over the temporarily repaired Sanibel Island causeway less than three weeks after Hurricane Ian destroyed it on October 20, 2022 in Arcadia, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Vehicles drive over the temporarily repaired Sanibel Island causeway less than three weeks after Hurricane Ian destroyed it on October 20, 2022 in Arcadia, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The amount of work done so far, especially the speed of the temporary repairs for the Sanibel Island causeway, are "nothing short of miraculous," Smith said. The open causeway now allowing for residents, business owners and cleanup crews with permits to access the island to survey the damage, Smith said.

The destruction of Sanibel Island, a barrier island off the coasts of Fort Myers Beach and Pine Island, is "extensive," Smith said. The electrical grid has been "decimated," and while there is running water, sewage systems are not operating optimally, she added.

The mayor has remained in her Sanibel Island home, sticking mainly to the couple of rooms powered by a small generator, she said. When she surveys the island, still in recovery and debris removal, she sees condominium complexes that have completely been washed away, mountains of debris and homes that were completely destroyed.

MORE: Floridians adamant about rebuilding in areas devastated by Hurricane Ian

It will take years, not months, to rebuild, Smith said. But the signs of life returning to the island are already evidence.

One grocery store, Jerry's Foods on Periwinkle Way, is up and running, Smith said. One school, grades Kindergarten through 8th grade, has been relocated to another part of Lee County, she added.

"We're resolved to get back together and build this Sanibel again," she said.

PHOTO: Remains of destroyed houses are seen almost one month after Hurricane Ian landfall in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, October 26, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)
PHOTO: Remains of destroyed houses are seen almost one month after Hurricane Ian landfall in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, October 26, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Homes and trailer parks lining the coast were also decimated by the waters rushing in from the Gulf of Mexico during the storm.

PHOTO: Workers clean up debris at a trailer park almost one month after Hurricane Ian landfall in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, October 25, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)
PHOTO: Workers clean up debris at a trailer park almost one month after Hurricane Ian landfall in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, October 25, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Cleanup crews were seen using forklifts to transfer large pieces of drywall, building foundations and furniture into dumpsters.

PHOTO: Remains of destroyed restaurants, shops, the Fort Myers Fishing Pier are seen almost one month after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., Oct. 26, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)
PHOTO: Remains of destroyed restaurants, shops, the Fort Myers Fishing Pier are seen almost one month after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., Oct. 26, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

The pier Fort Myers Beach, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the area, is also in the process of being rebuilt after seawaters toppled over the structure as the storm system pushed onto land.

MORE: Hurricane Ian before and after images show destruction of Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach

At least 127 people have died as a result of Hurricane Ian, according to local officials. After Ian passed, it prompted the largest urban search and rescue response in Florida history to find survivors.

PHOTO: A view of a memorial erected at Centennial Park almost one month after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Fort Myers, Fla., Oct. 26, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)
PHOTO: A view of a memorial erected at Centennial Park almost one month after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Fort Myers, Fla., Oct. 26, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

The total economic damage from Hurricane Ian could reach up to $75 billion, according to a projection released earlier this month by Enki Research, a data firm that studies the financial impact of storms.

Hurricane Ian 1 month later: Images show destruction left in hardest-hit regions originally appeared on abcnews.go.com