Hurricane Ian Recovery Update
FLORIDA—February 16, 2023—As spring break season approaches, the devastation of the 2022 hurricane season continues to impact Florida’s coastal communities—traditionally popular destinations for college students on break. It’s been more than four months since Hurricane Ian made landfall near Fort Myers Beach, but oceanfront buildings are still piles of rubble and the vast majority of vacation lodging has not been rebuilt. According to The New York Times, Fort Myers Beach offered 2,384 hotel rooms before the storm; today, just 360 are available. In nearby Sanibel and Captiva Islands, the story is the same with their combined rental properties diminishing from 2,800 to 155.
Tourism is the lifeblood of the Florida coast, so restoration efforts continue as hotels and restaurants work to rebuild from Hurricane Ian—and there have been positive steps forward. The Sanibel Island curfew was lifted last week, and the island’s schools reopened. Beachfront recovery continues, but some beaches are now open to the public and the first hotel rooms on Sanibel and Captiva began welcoming guests within the past month. A few restaurants have reopened while others are operating out of food trucks while their permanent locations are restored. In short, residents and business owners have hope, but there’s still a long way to go.