Officials studying options to get onto Pine Island; RSW to reopen on Wednesday

Published: October 2, 2022 4:43 PM EDT
Updated: October 4, 2022 10:37 AM EDT
Lee County Government held a press conference on Sunday on the Ian recovery. (CREDIT: Facebook)

Officials are hopeful they will have a solution for travel onto Pine Island after Ian wrecked the only thoroughfare onto the barrier island.

Lee County officials gave an update on storm recovery on Sunday.

“We have a short-term plan in place replacing Pine Island Road onto Pine Island,” said Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass.

The bridge would give access to Lee County Emergency Services and all of the contractors that will be needed to rebuild the land.

Residents still there should use their resources to leave that island,” Pendergrass said.

On Monday morning, FDOT and LCSO was keeping roads clear to help get emergency vehicles, crews and suppliers to Pine Island.

Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais said there is a rumor that the county wants to take Pine Island from its residents.

“I will tell you that is not the case,” Desjarlais said.

MORE: Lee County’s storm aftermath

“What we can do is we can strongly suggest people leave those islands if we cannot support them,” he added. “Staying on Fort Myers Beach right now is actually dangerous.”

Desjarlais said their water line breaks and sewer line breaks on Fort Myers Beach.

“And because so many people refused to leave, we are uncertain about fatalities,” Desjarlais said.

Desjarlais said he is unsure how many people died.

Access off of the south end of Fort Myers Beach is now impossible, he said.

“If you’re heading south out of Fort Myers Beach, you can’t even get to Bonita Springs now,” Desjarlais said. “You have bridges that are not passable.”

Little Hickory Pass Bridge will need to be rebuilt, Desjarlais said.

Meanwhile, the Sanibel Causeway failed in five places, authorities said.

“FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) will begin to do a design-build project to replace all of the broken sections of the bridge. How long it’s going to take I just don’t know yet,” Desjarlais said. “Lee County does not have a bottomless well of money; everything we do, we have to be careful.”

Ian has forced the closure of Pine Island Road, the only way to get onto Pine Island. (CREDIT: WINK News)

For the next 30 days, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse Lee County’s costs. The county is trying to get an extension of 120 days, Desjarlais said.

Pendergrass responded to criticism that the county had not done enough to evacuate residents from the barrier islands.

“Seventy-two hours before the storm, we were still not within the cone,” Pendergrass said.

People get callous to storms, he said.

“They’ve been through a hurricane and they said no big deal,” Pendergrass said.

But Ian was the worst-case scenario.

“That would be the worst thing for the barrier islands and it happened that way,” Pendergrass said.

In other news, Southwest Florida International Airport could be operational on a limited capacity for commercial flights as soon as Wednesday.

Ben Siegel, executive director of RSW, said the airport was opened soon after Ian to support a military rescue.

The airport will open for commercial flights on Wednesday, but with some changes, he said.

“It’s not going to be the same airport that you are used to seeing; we re going to have limited concessions,” Siegel said. “This will be a slow rollout. Our challenges have been with staffing.”

Ian has forced the closure of Pine Island Road, the only way to get onto Pine Island. (CREDIT: WINK News)

For people who have lost driver’s licenses or other state documents, the Florida Licensing on Wheels Mobile will be in Lee County beginning on Monday.

The mobile licensing bus will be at Hertz Arena at 11000 Everblades Parkway in Estero. there you can get new driver’s licenses, state identification cards and vehicle titles

On Monday, the licensing mobile will be open from 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Starting Tuesday, the hours will be 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., seven days a week.

If you are looking for a place to shower in Lee County, you can find one a the Fort Myers Fire Station at 9700 Treeline Avenue from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. The City of Fort Myers reminds everyone to bring their own towel, soap will be provided. Shower shoes are also recommended.