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Sanibel Island residents are now allowed to access the island by boat

Sanibel Island
Posted at 7:56 AM, Oct 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-07 12:34:41-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Residents of Sanibel Island may now access the island after a week of being cut off.

Those who wish to travel to and from the island must do so with their own resources and at their own risk, according to the city’s website.

The island is only accessible by boat because Hurricane Ian destroyed portions of the Sanibel Causeway.

Benjamin Kessinger’s family has a condominium on Sanibel Island. The unit had water damage, but Kessinger said he saw other properties with more damage.

“We had 3 feet of water go in, water damage and the roofing kind of came off. Luckily, the storm shutters held in. When you walk around, a lot of the storm shutters came out,” said Kessinger.

Kessinger said Sanibel has always meant a lot to his family.

“I’ve been coming here since I was born and I know my dad’s been coming here since he was a young kid as well. My grandfather had one of the original places here. It’s always been a special place in our hearts,” said Kessinger.

The City of Sanibel said a curfew is in effect from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. with no exception. Residents must have a current Sanibel Hurricane Reentry pass or a valid Florida driver’s license showing a Sanibel address.

Condominiums near the water have visible damage, with sliding glass doors ripped off of every unit.

Kevin Erndl lives in Collier County. He loaded up his boat with supplies like dog food, non-perishable food items, baby diapers and other essential items.

Erndl stopped his boat near Pine Island Road to get more supplies from volunteers before taking them to people who needed them.

“They just opened Pine Island Bridge to residents only, but they’re really being careful because the bridge is still delicate so they’re only letting people over in convoys and that’s why we're taking most items by boat still,” said Stephanie Haddaway a volunteer.

The path of Ian’s destruction is visible along Southwest Florida’s coastline.

“All the original places having to see all that having to get rebuilt, it’s going to be different for sure,” said Kessinger.

Gov. Ron Desantis directed the Florida Department of Transportation to prioritize repairs to the Sanibel Causeway. These repairs are needed for first responders and Sanibel residents to access the island.

A temporary bridge should be in place by the end of October.

This article was written by Julie Salomone for WFTS.