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

Sanibel Causeway Continental Approach and A-Bridge decimated in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

The Sanibel Causeway, which provides the only link to Sanibel and Captiva Island off Fort Myers, will need to be rebuilt after Hurricane Ian wiped out several sections.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Thursday the causeway, along with the nearby Pine Island Bridge, was completely impassable after sustaining severe damage in the Category 4 storm.

“Sanibel Island is destruction…it was hit by a truly biblical storm surge. It washed away roads. It washed away structures,’ DeSantis told a news conference as he described the damage. .

Sanibel and neighboring Captiva are popular family vacation destinations, known for their pristine beaches and the wealth of seashells that wash up on shore, attracting shell hunters from around the world.

However, the two islands are connected 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 destroyed and overturned. The destroyed bridge spans were brought to light in 2007 at a cost of $137 million.

Sanibel Causeway Continental Approach and A-Bridge decimated in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

Sanibel Causeway Continental Approach and A-Bridge decimated in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

A damaged causeway to Sanibel Island is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday

A damaged causeway to Sanibel Island is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday

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

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

“Sanibel Island is destruction…it was hit by a truly biblical storm surge. It washed away roads. It washed away structures,’ DeSantis told a news conference as he described the damage.

Military helicopters carried out search and rescue operations in Sanibel on Thursday with the only land link cut off

Military helicopters carried out search and rescue operations in Sanibel on Thursday with the only land link cut off

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Thursday the causeway, along with the nearby Pine Island Bridge, was completely impassable after sustaining severe damage in the Category 4 storm.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Thursday the causeway, along with the nearby Pine Island Bridge, was completely impassable after sustaining severe damage in the Category 4 storm.

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

Bridge A, which is closest to the mainland, was partially wiped out in Wednesday’s storm, along with the approach to the mainland.

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

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

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

The U.S. Coast Guard began search and rescue operations on the barrier islands at dawn Thursday, DeSantis said.

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

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

Aerial photo of the damaged Sanibel Causeway that connects Fort Myers to the island community seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

Aerial photo of the damaged Sanibel Causeway that connects Fort Myers to the island community seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

The photos show several sections of the bridge completely destroyed and overturned.  Destroyed bridge spans were unearthed in 2007 at a cost of $137 million

The photos show several sections of the bridge completely destroyed and overturned. Destroyed bridge spans were unearthed in 2007 at a cost of $137 million

The broken causeway is flat leading to Sanibel Island Causeway in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

The broken causeway is flat leading to Sanibel Island Causeway in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

Ian, one of the strongest storms to ever hit the continental United States, inundated Gulf Coast communities before crossing the peninsula to the Atlantic Ocean, where it was expected to recover some of its depleted power. before making landfall in South Carolina on Friday.

The extent of the dead and injured remained unclear, as rescuers were only beginning to respond to calls after they were unable to get out earlier in the dangerous conditions.

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

“The numbers are still unclear, but we’re hearing early reports of what could be a significant loss of life,” Biden said.

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

Ian landed 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 turned Florida’s southwest coastline, dotted with sandy beaches, coastal towns and mobile home parks, into a disaster zone as Ian swept seawater into shoreline homes. ‘water.

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

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

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

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

A damaged causeway to Sanibel Island is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday

A damaged causeway to Sanibel Island is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday

The broken causeway is flat leading to Sanibel Island Causeway in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

The broken causeway is flat leading to Sanibel Island Causeway in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

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

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

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

“A number of people have been identified and safely evacuated from the island, and those efforts are continuing,” he said.

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

As of noon on Thursday, residents of hard-hit areas like Venice, located in Sarasota County about 120 miles south of Tampa, searched for family and friends as rescue teams scrambled to reach those trapped in flooded houses.

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

“Sit tight, we know a lot of you need help,” Hoffman wrote.

Tracing relatives was made more difficult as cell phone services were often cut off.

“Lots of downed trees, lots of flooding everywhere. We’re trying to get hold of 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 assessing the damage.

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

“It was crazy,” said local landscaper Jeffrey Chambers, 53, noting that the storm brought sideways rain and whitewash conditions. ‘I was like ‘Please stop already, just stop.’ And it went on and it went on.

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

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