CAPTIVA ISLAND, Fla. — Monday will mark one week since the Sanibel Causeway has been reopened to regular traffic since Hurricane Ian.
While beaches remain closed, it hasn’t stopped travelers from visiting Sanibel or Captiva Islands. Causing a few unwanted traffic concerns by those still recovering. Traffic that’s been noticed by some who call the islands home.
"That's what it looks like when it's starting to come back," said Fran Fortin, who lives on the island part-time. "And these trees, a lot of these trees down here, are really hardy so they grow back pretty quick.”
New life coming back to Captiva Island. Life that is native to the terrain and life that have decided to call it home.
"It's good to see people back down here. It sort of makes it feel alive again.”
Like Fran Fortin, who's been noticing the island's recovery. 100-plus days after Hurricane Ian.
"Coming back onto Sanibel, the devastation was pretty amazing," he says. "The smell of rotting material and the mountains of debris- it was pretty depressing but it's come a long way in a short time.”
Time that has seen the causeway reopen to regular traffic. While it may have caused a few concerns for unnecessary visitors, Fortin has noticed something otherwise.
"Just during the day they'll be going thru Sanibel, come all the way down to Captiva, and they just kind of look around. People that would normally come here or they would come down here to eat at the restaurants, look like they're just curious. But it hasn't been a problem.”
Many streets on Captiva look a little messy but otherwise driveable. It's quite different from how they were just a few months ago.
"There was rubble everywhere and piled high, houses were damaged severely, and roofs were off," said John Miller, who also lives on the island part-time. "It was very sad.”
Miller lives just down the street from Fortin. He says he's noticed plenty of clean-up happening thanks to low traffic.
"Except when they close the lane to make some repairs or something, then it's slow," he says. "But I don't think there are that many people coming out here.”
Keeping these islanders hopeful of a speedy recovery.
"To anybody out there who's still suffering- hang in there," says Fortin. "It'll get better.”