Gov. DeSantis says three-mile long Sanibel Causeway will need to be rebuilt

The Sanibel Causeway, which provides the only link to Sanibel and Captiva Island across from Fort Myers, will have to be rebuilt after several sections were washed away by Hurricane Ian.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that the Causeway, as well as the nearby Pine Island Bridge, are completely impassable after sustaining severe damage in the Category 4 storm.

‘Sanibel Island is destruction…was hit by a truly biblical storm surge. It razed roads. It leveled structures,” DeSantis said during a news conference as he described the damage.

Sanibel and neighboring Captiva are popular family vacation destinations, known for their pristine beaches and the rich trove of seashells that wash ashore, attracting shell hunters from around the world.

However, the two islands are linked to the mainland only by the three-mile-long Sanibel Causeway, which suffered catastrophic damage in the storm.

The photos show several sections of the bridge completely washed away and torn down. The destroyed bridge spans were upgrades installed in 2007 at a cost of $137 million.

Sanibel Causeway Mainland Access and Bridge A are decimated after Hurricane Ian

Sanibel Causeway Mainland Access and Bridge A are decimated after Hurricane Ian

A damaged causeway is seen to Sanibel Island after Hurricane Ian on Thursday

A damaged causeway is seen to Sanibel Island after Hurricane Ian on Thursday

A damaged causeway is seen to Sanibel Island after Hurricane Ian on Thursday

Sanibel and Captiva are linked to the mainland only by the three-mile-long Sanibel Causeway, which suffered catastrophic damage in the storm.

Sanibel and Captiva are linked to the mainland only by the three-mile-long Sanibel Causeway, which suffered catastrophic damage in the storm.

Sanibel and Captiva are linked to the mainland only by the three-mile-long Sanibel Causeway, which suffered catastrophic damage in the storm.

'Sanibel Island is destruction...was hit by a truly biblical storm surge.  It razed roads.  It leveled structures,' DeSantis said during a news conference as he described the damage.

'Sanibel Island is destruction...was hit by a truly biblical storm surge.  It razed roads.  It leveled structures,' DeSantis said during a news conference as he described the damage.

‘Sanibel Island is destruction…was hit by a truly biblical storm surge. It razed roads. It leveled structures,’ DeSantis said during a news conference as he described the damage.

Military helicopters conducted search and rescue in Sanibel on Thursday with the only ground link cut

Military helicopters conducted search and rescue in Sanibel on Thursday with the only ground link cut

Military helicopters conducted search and rescue in Sanibel on Thursday with the only ground link cut

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that the Causeway, as well as the nearby Pine Island Bridge, are completely impassable after sustaining severe damage in the Category 4 storm.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that the Causeway, as well as the nearby Pine Island Bridge, are completely impassable after sustaining severe damage in the Category 4 storm.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that the Causeway, as well as the nearby Pine Island Bridge, are completely impassable after sustaining severe damage in the Category 4 storm.

The Causeway was originally built in 1963 and consists of three bridge spans linking the mainland with two man-made causeway islands, before connecting to Sanibel Island.

Bridge A, which is the closest to the mainland, was partially destroyed by Wednesday’s storm, as was access to the mainland.

Sanibel has a permanent population of approximately 6,000 people. Captiva, a smaller, more exclusive enclave, has a permanent population of just 300.

Also cut off from the mainland was Pine Island, the largest island on Florida’s Gulf Coast and home to many commercial fishermen. Pine Island has a population of about 9,000 people.

The islands were under mandatory evacuation orders long before Ian made landfall, but it’s unclear how many residents may have remained.

The US Coast Guard began search and rescue operations on the barrier islands as dawn broke Thursday, DeSantis said.

A Sanibel Island resort is seen following the destructive impact of Hurricane Ian

A Sanibel Island resort is seen following the destructive impact of Hurricane Ian

A Sanibel Island resort is seen following the destructive impact of Hurricane Ian

Aerial photo of the damaged Sanibel causeway connecting Fort Myers to the island community seen after Hurricane Ian

Aerial photo of the damaged Sanibel causeway connecting Fort Myers to the island community seen after Hurricane Ian

Aerial photo of the damaged Sanibel causeway connecting Fort Myers to the island community seen after Hurricane Ian

The photos show several sections of the bridge completely washed away and torn down.  Destroyed bridge spans were upgrades installed in 2007 at a cost of $137 million

The photos show several sections of the bridge completely washed away and torn down.  Destroyed bridge spans were upgrades installed in 2007 at a cost of $137 million

The photos show several sections of the bridge completely washed away and torn down. Destroyed bridge spans were upgrades installed in 2007 at a cost of $137 million

Broken pavement lies flat leading to Sanibel Island causeway after Hurricane Ian

Broken pavement lies flat leading to Sanibel Island causeway after Hurricane Ian

Broken pavement lies flat leading to Sanibel Island causeway after Hurricane Ian

Ian, one of the strongest storms to hit the continental US, inundated Gulf Coast communities before moving across the peninsula to the Atlantic Ocean, where it was expected to regain some of its depleted energy before making a second landfall in South Carolina on Friday.

The extent of the deaths and injuries remained uncertain as rescuers were just beginning to respond to calls after being unable to get out earlier during the treacherous conditions.

President Joe Biden, speaking at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters in Washington, said Ian could turn out to be the deadliest in Florida history.

“The numbers are not yet clear, but we are hearing early reports of what may be a substantial loss of life,” Biden said.

More than 2.6 million homes and businesses in Florida remained without power, according to utility companies. Gov. Ron DeSantis said Lee and Charlotte counties, home to more than 900,000 people, were “basically off the grid.”

Ian made landfall on the barrier island of Cayo Costa on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour.

The storm transformed Florida’s southwestern coast, dotted with sandy beaches, seaside towns and mobile home parks, into a disaster zone as Ian washed seawater onto waterfront homes.

A house burns on Sanibel Island in the wake of Hurricane Ian on Thursday

A house burns on Sanibel Island in the wake of Hurricane Ian on Thursday

A house burns on Sanibel Island in the wake of Hurricane Ian on Thursday

Damaged buildings on Sanibel are seen after Hurricane Ian passed through the area.  The hurricane brought strong winds, storm surge and rain to the area causing severe damage.

Damaged buildings on Sanibel are seen after Hurricane Ian passed through the area.  The hurricane brought strong winds, storm surge and rain to the area causing severe damage.

Damaged buildings on Sanibel are seen after Hurricane Ian passed through the area. The hurricane brought strong winds, storm surge and rain to the area causing severe damage.

A damaged causeway is seen to Sanibel Island after Hurricane Ian on Thursday

A damaged causeway is seen to Sanibel Island after Hurricane Ian on Thursday

A damaged causeway is seen to Sanibel Island after Hurricane Ian on Thursday

Broken pavement lies flat leading to Sanibel Island causeway after Hurricane Ian

Broken pavement lies flat leading to Sanibel Island causeway after Hurricane Ian

Broken pavement lies flat leading to Sanibel Island causeway after Hurricane Ian

Sanibel has a permanent population of approximately 6,000 people.  Captiva, a smaller, more exclusive enclave, has a permanent population of just 300

Sanibel has a permanent population of approximately 6,000 people.  Captiva, a smaller, more exclusive enclave, has a permanent population of just 300

Sanibel has a permanent population of approximately 6,000 people. Captiva, a smaller, more exclusive enclave, has a permanent population of just 300

DeSantis previously said that 28 helicopters were conducting water rescues and that the bridge to the island was impassable.

“There have been a number of people identified and safely removed from the island, and those efforts continue,” he said.

Two area hospitals were evacuated and patients were moved to higher ground.

By noon Thursday, residents of hard-hit areas like Venice, located in Sarasota County about 75 miles (120 km) south of Tampa, were searching for family and friends as rescue teams worked to reach people. trapped in flooded houses.

Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman told residents in a Twitter post that there had been more than 500 calls for help.

“Rest assured, we know many of you need help,” Hoffman wrote.

Searching for loved ones became more difficult as cell phone services were often cut off.

‘A lot of downed trees, a lot of flooding everywhere. We’re trying to reach my daughter,” Terri Byrd said in a vehicle in a Walmart parking lot trying to get cell service after spending the night at an elementary school in Venice.

Across the region, officials and residents spent the morning surveying the damage.

In Punta Gorda, a town directly in the path of the hurricane, trees, debris and power lines littered roads, though many buildings remained standing, having withstood the storm’s ravages better than many feared.

“It was crazy,” said local landscaper Jeffrey Chambers, 53, noting that the storm brought side showers and bleaching conditions. ‘I was like ‘Please stop already, just stop.’ And he went on and on.

In the Orlando area, about 170 miles northeast of where Ian made landfall, emergency workers waded through waist-deep water carrying residents and pets to dry land, videos showed on Twitter.

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