FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — While applauding the fast response in the 10 days since Hurricane Ian recovery efforts began, Gov. Ron DeSantis stressed on Saturday that there was much more to do to come out from under what may prove to be the costliest storm to strike the state.
Governor DeSantis was joined by local officials to announce that access has been cleared for residents to return to Fort Myers Beach in phases. Portable showers and restrooms were brought in for residents to use while they clean their homes.
"As of 7 a.m. this morning, the first group of residents did return to the island. More will be coming throughout the day. This is their home, and we want to make sure that that they're here," Gov. DeSantis said.
Within the span of one week, access to Pine Island was restored by way of temporary bridge repairs, announced repairs to the Sanibel Causeway could be in place by the end of the month, and Florida Power & Light restored electricity to essentially its entire affected customer base.
"The hardest stuff is still ahead," DeSantis stressed. As Lee County Electric Cooperative works to attain its estimate of 95% customer restoration by the end of the day Saturday, FPL, Duke Energy and other mutual aid teams are preparing for work on restoring service to the barrier islands.
FDOT officials also said a "Herculean effort" of clearing debris to facilitate access to state highways and major roads was deemed a success, and restoring function to stop lights and other essential powered signage was also mostly complete.
Efforts to improve access to Sanibel and the other barrier islands will now increase, with more available resources able to be consolidated in the affected areas.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno also spoke at Saturday's briefing, saying that incidents of looting in the county had been "very low," with the most recent incident resulting in the arrests of five adults and a teenage girl.
There are currently 11 fueling depot stations open statewide, and mobile fuel trucks have been deployed to Arcadia and Dunbar to support residents without access to fuel.
All Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian can find someone to talk to today through the Disaster Distress Helpline by calling 800-985-5990.