At least three sections of the Sanibel Causeway were washed away by storm surges from Hurricane Ian. According to video from CNN affiliate WBBH And WPLGSanibel and Captiva Islands cut off their only connection to Florida’s mainland.
Videos from the causeway show two sections of the ramp to both bridges washed away and a stretch of road passing through an island in the middle of the causeway.
A portion of the Sanibel Causeway bridge was “damaged/washed out,” said Lt. Gregory S. of the Florida Highway Patrol’s public affairs division. Bueno told CNN. All lanes of the bridge are currently closed, and the severity of the closure is listed as “major.” According to Florida 511.
“Sanibel is devastated,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Thursday afternoon, adding that the area was hit by a “biblical storm surge.”
“It washed away roads, washed away structures that weren’t new and could withstand it,” he said, adding that while many were evacuated, some were brought safely off the island. The governor said air operations are continuing as the area is inaccessible by land.
The causeway will be reconstructed, DeSantis said. “But it’s not something that happens overnight.”
Law enforcement and crews from the Lee County Department of Transportation are on the scene on the causeway, officials said. said in an update Thursday morning, and bridge inspectors were tasked with evaluating all bridges in Lee County. Residents are advised to stay off the roads “unless absolutely necessary”.
The county, which includes Fort Myers in addition to Sanibel and Captiva islands and Cape Coral, suffered “catastrophic damage” from the storm, with officials noting in their update that 98% of the county was without power.
While urban search and rescue teams from local agencies are “actively involved in search and rescue efforts,” federal search and rescue teams are used. Meanwhile, 15 shelters that were opened ahead of the storm remain open.
Asked if rescue efforts had been conducted on Sanibel Island, Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson, commander of the US Coast Guard’s Seventh District, said the Coast Guard “has gone to that area and we are looking.”
“In some cases, we’ve found people who are safe, they’ve waved us off and they don’t need any rescue,” McPherson told CNN. “But in other cases, we’re definitely looking at that area.”
An estimated 6,400 people Lived in Sanibel As of April 2021, according to the US Census Bureau. The islands have many hotels and resorts as their beaches attract a significant number of tourists every year.
In 2017, the city of Sanibel measured annual bridge traffic on the Causeway at more than 3 million vehicles.
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