The News-Press has journalists spread out in Lee County covering the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. The hurricane slammed into Southwest Florida on Sept. 28. This blog will provide the latest news and information about recovery and relief efforts.
6:44 p.m. | Highlights from Gov. DeSantis news conference in Fort Myers
Gov. Ron DeSantis said repairs to the Pine Island bridge — one of the barrier islands hardest hit by Hurricane Ian — should be completed by the end of the week, so that cleanup workers can clear debris and utility crews can get access to restore power.
The barrier islands off Florida’s Southwest coast took the brunt of Ian’s Category 4 winds and toppled the bridge to Pine Island and Sanibel Island which have limited accessibility for power crews and much needed supplied.
“I will say, probably saw more debris on Pine Island than any place I've been other than Fort Myers Beach,” DeSantis said Wednesday during in an afternoon press conference in Fort Myers.
Electric poles are down, “so no one had done anything about the power there,” said DeSantis.
He added that the island’s Publix supermarket, which has been giving away perishable items and running on generator power, would again be restocking shelves once the bridge reopened at the end of the week.
Bidding for a contract to rebuild the Sanibel Island Causeway, which was damaged in several places, was underway but DeSantis didn’t have an estimate on when the island would again be accessible by road.
Helping barrier islands
He said a “command and control” element would be established on five of the barrier islands including Pine, Fort Myers Beach, Captiva and the upper barrier islands just to the north, which would allow local, state and federal officials to move through different steps of recovery simultaneously.
“Our view at the state level, is you do all this stuff on parallel tracks,” he said. “You don't wait until one thing is done and then begin to start the next we know we have to do all these so let's start them all and move them forward.”
There are roughly 42,000 linemen surging into the state to restore power across much of Southwest Florida. About a quarter of the 2.2 million per outages have been restored in the days since Ian made landfall last Wednesday.
— The state Department of Emergency Management also deployed a mobile fuel truck to Arcadia in DeSoto County and Dunbar in Lee County to help residents without access to fuel.
— At the same time, state officials opened the first disaster recovery center in Fort Myers Tuesday to serve as a “one-stop shop” where people affected by Hurricane Ian can tap into state and federal resources.
Located at Lakes Regional Library located at 15290 Bass Road, Fort Myers, it is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The center houses more than a dozen state and partner agencies tp provide assistance.
The center is the first of several to open in the coming weeks.
— DeSantis on Tuesday also activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program. The program makes available $50 million in zero-interest business loans, $10 million of which is designated for agricultural businesses impacted by Ian.
— First Lady Casey DeSantis said the Florida Disaster Fund has raised more than $26 million since it was activated.
— Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said 16 urban search and rescue teams had gone through more than 72,000 structures looking for people.
— Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said a flood of “fraudsters” coming into the state looking to take advantage of people seeking insurance or other help. He encouraged people to be cautious of scams in the weeks ahead. “If it’s too good to be true it probably is,” he said. “If somebody is being too nice to you, run them off your property because they’re trying to take advantage of you.”
4:22 p.m. | Blood donors needed in SWFL
Hospitals in Southwest Florida need blood donors to step forward because of critically low supplies that is expected to worsen.
The NCH Healthcare System in Collier County has issued an urgent plea for donors, and its blood center is in dire need for platelets, a blood component that form clots and prevents bleeding.
The hospital system has experienced a surge in hospitalizations since Hurricane Ian hit Sept. 28.
· To donate, NCH’s blood center is located 1t 1100 Immokalee Rd. in North Naples.
· Platelet donations are made by appointment only at 239-624-4130. Whole blood donors do not need an appointment
· Call the blood drive hotline, 239-624-6505 for additional information.
3:40 p.m. | Lee Sheriff: 55 bodies recovered
Six days after Hurricane Island pounded Lee County, Sheriff Carmine Marceno says his deputies are tiring, with no end in sight.
His crew has helped with 842 rescues and recovered 55 bodies, he said Tuesday at Getaway Marina, near Matanzas Bridge on Fort Myers Beach.
1:07 p.m. | Power restoration a '24-hour operation'
On Tuesday, State Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers) toured Florida Power and Light’s storm recovery staging area. He described the operation as a “well-oiled machine,” set up to get linemen into the field as efficiently as possible.
“It’s a 24-hour operation,” he said.
Workers are housed in 30-bunk trailers, with total capacity to sleep 1,500 people, Rodrigues said. Each morning, linemen are given a hot breakfast, a boxed lunch, and a set of orders before being sent out on a 16-hour shift.
When they return, they get dinner, take showers and head to their bunks, as other workers inventory and re-supply their trucks. Their clothes are picked up and laundered, and are made ready for use in future shifts.
“They’ve set it up where the only thing the lineman have to worry about is doing their job,” Rodrigues said.
12:35 p.m. | Florida SNAP benefits: How do I get emergency food stamps after Hurricane Ian?
DCF released over $235 million in October SNAP benefits early to more than 1.4 million people to help with storm preparation.
Read the full story here.
12:04 p.m. | Sanibel issuing re-entry passes
The City of Sanibel is issuing Hurricane Re-entry Passes through 5 p.m. beginning Tuesday in the Sanibel Meeting Room, first floor, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Sanibel Room, 13051 Bell Tower Drive in Fort Myers.
The hours of operation beginning are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday beginning Wednesday.
10:50 a.m. | Portable showers for residents without water available on Winkler
Portable showers are available for Fort Myers residents at 2830 Winkler Ave., the headquarters for Martin Byrd, candidate Fort Myers City Council, ward 1, until 5 p.m. today. Clean the World from Orlando sent a 40-foot unit that houses 4 showers with bathrooms for residents in need.
10:40 a.m. | Got Wi-Fi? If not, 4 vans providing free internet
Four Wi-Fi vans have arrived in Southwest Florida, devastated by Hurricane Ian last week.
Comcast Xfinity has set up the customized vans to provide free wireless internet service so residents and emergency personnel can stay connected. The four vans will operate at four locations in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties (two vans are in Fort Myers) from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily until further notice. Each can each provide wireless internet connectivity to more than 1,000 users at one time over a 300-square-foot area.
10:36 a.m. | Free mobile veterinary clinic at Terry Park
University of Florida Veterinarians is offering free veterinary services to residents with pets in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. The daily service will run 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from Terry Park, 3410 Palm Beach Blvd. in Fort Myers. The clinic will be available to provide triage and medical care for the pets in Lee County affected by Hurricane Ian.
The clinic will continue seven days a week until further notice.
“We are honored to be available to assist Lee County during this devastating period,” said Dr. Larry Garcia, University of Florida. “Pets are family members and vital to the recovery of our citizens. Our team will do all we can to ensure the health and well-being of as many animals possible.”
9:50 a.m. | Miami-Dade helping Lee Schools
Miami-Dade Public Schools is delivering food to the Lee County School District on Wednesday, Oct. 5, for students, families, teachers and staff.
There will be fresh juices, snacks and packaged sandwiches.
Pick up will be at the district offices from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at 2855 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers.
9:42 a.m. | Lee County sets up Emergency Building and Well Repair Permitting operation
Lee County will open an Emergency Building and Well Repair Permitting operation post-Hurricane Ian on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at the Department of Community Development building in downtown Fort Myers.
Homeowners need to know the following information before arriving at the site:
Unincorporated Lee County will open limited Emergency Building and Well Repair Permitting Services a 9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5.
Temporary permitting office set up at 2115 Second St., Fort Myers. Go to the first floor.
For building permits, hours and dates will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.
For well-repair permits, hours and days will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday until further notice.
Permitting is limited to repairs to existing habitable buildings and repair to wells due to Hurricane Ian. Permit applications must be storm related.
Lee County is working to expedite permits for most types of work.
Permit fees waived until further notice.
Lee County is working diligently to bring back Building Services in a responsible way, to assist residents and businesses to the maximum extent possible by maximizing resources to help the most customers possible.
A specific landing page has been set up for more information: www.leegov.com/dcd/BldPermitServ/AppsProcd/EmergProcd
Contractors, who typically file for permits online, are asked to continue to use that process. This emergency operation is intended for homeowners.
Get updates from Lee County government on Hurricane Ian by following @Lee County Government on Facebook, www.facebook.com/leecountyflbocc.
More information is available at www.leegov.com/storm.
9:27 a.m. | Design business offers free furniture removal
Through Friday, Wilfredo Emanuel Designs is partnering with Skyline Moving & Delivery to provide free furniture removal for their clients and Naples’s residents in need. They are offering extended hours based on the team’s availability. Interested locals can call the office at 239-315-7794 to schedule an appointment to have their damaged furniture moved and disposed of free of charge.
9:13 a.m. | Tow truck companies have been busy
Our growth and development reporter Samantha Neely filed this story about all of the cars and trucks that have been damaged by flooding and how tow truck companies are addressing the challenge of removing the vehicles.
9:05 a.m. | Canterbury football returns to the field
The Canterbury School football team sought a little normalcy Tuesday morning, returning to the football field for the first time since Hurricane Ian last Wednesday.
A little more than 20 players showed up as the Cougars are preparing to play the Community School of Naples on Friday night.
No Lee County Public School teams will be back in action this week, and the county's three other private schools were not ready to return. Some Collier County teams did return for practice Tuesday and also plan to play Friday.
“You know, in the grand scheme of things, it's a game. You know, it's a game, it's not life or death, Canterbury coach Stacy Sizemore said. “It's a game and we want to kind of approach it that way, just because you never know. We could be, you know, not able to play and our kids are sitting there like some other schools that are less fortunate and they can't play, you know, they can't come back together. So we want to we want to appreciate what we are able to do still and just have some fun.”
8:58 a.m. | Dramatic storm surge video from Fort Myers Beach
A resident of Fort Myers Beach shared this dramatic storm surge video with The News-Press and Naples Daily News.
8:44 a.m. | Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary reopening
While Hurricane Ian caused widespread damage in the region, Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk and Blair Nature Center sustained only minor damage.
Corkscrew announced Tuesday that it continues to clean up and make repairs so it can reopen Saturday, Oct. 8, for visitors to again stroll along the sanctuary’s 2.25-mile boardwalk into the wild.
Established in 1954, Corkscrew spans 13,450 acres in Southwest Florida. More at https://corkscrew.audubon.org/.
8:14 a.m. | Cape Walmart reopens
Cape Coral’s Walmart Supercenter has reopened.
The Del Prado Boulevard store will have limited hours. Signs at the front entrance say it’ll be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
People were already lined up for ice, water and other supplies by 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. Customers are limited to two bags of ice and two packs of water.
7:01 a.m. | Power restoration update from LCEC
As of 5:30 a.m. just over 41% of LCEC's six-county service territory has been restored over the past five days, excluding Sanibel and Pine Island, which are not accessible to line crews.
The number of restoration workers will grow to 2,000 by this weekend as additional crews arrive today and tomorrow. Preliminary work on the islands will continue to prepare for restoration in those locations when possible, with the main focus on customers throughout the LCEC service territory who are able to receive power now.
LCEC reminds customers to stay away from downed power lines, turn off breakers until power is restored, and use generators safely to protect themselves and crews working on lines in their neighborhood.
Resources for Fort Myers, Lee County
Flooded car?: Here’s what to do (and what NOT to do)
Craving a hot meal?: Lee County restaurants open in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Bonita, Estero
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Hurricane Ian: What to know in Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral, Sanibel