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'My forever home': Homeowners, business owners use Causeway to go back to Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island
Posted at 5:17 PM, Oct 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-20 04:32:27-04

SANIBEL, Fla. — Three weeks after Hurricane Ian ripped apart the Sanibel Causeway and forced it to close, workers made temporary repairs to reopen it.

Prior to the reopening, many homeowners and business owners got to the island by boat to check out what was left.

"We’re going to rebuild. We’re going to do that," said Laura DeBruce, an island resident and owner of Sanibel Carts, a golf cart rental service. "There was celebration on the Causeway today."

She says all her carts are gone and the first floor to her home is destroyed.

"The screen is down. The mud rushed in," DeBruce said. "Even though it looks sort of disastrous, we’re all here and we’re going to build back."

Her neighborhood got hit hard by the storm surge.

"To see all the debris by the streets is kinda heart-wrenching," said Jeff Burns, a Sanibel homeowner. "Everybody’s working hand in hand to try and get this island back up and running."

Burns believes the Causeway reopening will help tremendously.

"I think that will change everything out here when we can start getting access to the mainland back and forth," he said.

Utility trucks are still coming over on barges and on the Causeway. Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Wednesday that 25-percent of customers should have power by the end of the week, if not by Thursday.

Power that not only homeowners need, but businesses too as they assess their damages. Kate Sergeant owns On Island on Sanibel, a clothing store. She suffered flooding and tile damage, causing water to leak in from the ceiling.

"The shirts, a lot of them are okay, but it smells. It’s very moist in here," Sergeant said. "I’m not able to sell them in this condition, so pretty much everything I have is lost."

She had checked out her store prior to the Causeway opening, but the feeling of going over the bridge was different on Wednesday.

"There was just a jubilant mood and then all of a sudden as I got near the toll booth, it just got — oh I’m home," Sergeant said.

Other business owners like Bridgit Budd haven't been over the Causeway yet. Budd owns the restaurant Pecking Order and suffered minor damage.

"We definitely expected it to be worse," she said.

All the equipment was fine, but she did lose her food truck with some supplies in it. Despite that, Budd is looking ahead.

"Once the power gets on and I get my food vendor over by car, truck or boat — I don’t care, but then I can start making this little island smell like fried chicken," Budd said.

It's comfort through food and feeling.

"I’m moving back out. I mean, I love Sanibel, and this is going to be my home forever," Burns said.