Sanibel Island causeway washed out by Ian reopens early

SANIBEL, Fla. (AP) — The causeway washed out by Hurricane Ian that links Sanibel Island to the Florida mainland reopened with temporary repairs on Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced.

The 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) causeway was badly damaged by the Category 4 hurricane, with initial predictions that repairs could take months. Instead, the span reopened just three weeks after the storm blew ashore Sept. 28.

“It’s something that shows a little bit of a can-do spirit,” DeSantis, a Republican, said at a news conference, adding that government bureaucracy should not hamper such efforts.

“The work that has been done to restore vehicle access to Sanibel Island has been historic,” the governor added.

Sanibel Island is home to about 6,300 people. The storm killed more than 100 people in Florida, many of them in Lee County, where Sanibel and its famed seashell beaches are a top tourist destination.

One lifelong Sanibel resident, Troy Thompson, said having the causeway back will really help the barrier island because so much recovery work remains.

“The causeway is our lifeline. It means everything to get it back,” said Thompson, operations manager at his family’s Lazy Flamingo restaurant.

The governor’s office said 100 crews worked around the clock to repair the causeway, which includes three separate bridges. Workers used 8,200 loads of fill dirt, 2,400 loads of rock, and 4,000 tons of asphalt.

The Florida Department of Transportation will continue to work on a permanent fix for the causeway, officials said. Power restoration, debris removal and other recovery efforts will be much easier with the temporary causeway repairs, they said.

“There is hope,” said Cecil Pendergrass, chairman of the Lee County Commission. “We will rebuild.”

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