LEE COUNTY

Officials hope they can find a way to get to Pine Island after Yang destroyed the only road to the barrier island.

Lee County officials on Sunday reported on the recovery from the storm.

“We have a short-term plan to replace Pine Island Road with Pine Island,” said Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass.

The bridge will provide access to Lee County emergency services and any contractors needed to rebuild the area.

The residents who are still there should use their resources to leave this island,” Pendergrass said.

Lee County Executive Roger Desjarlais said there are rumors the county wants to take away from Pine Islanders.

“I’ll tell you it’s not,” Desjarlais said.

“What we can do is we can strongly encourage people to leave these islands if we cannot support them,” he added. “It’s actually dangerous to stay on Fort Myers Beach right now.”

Desjarlais said there is a water main and sewer line break in Fort Myers Beach.

“And because so many people refused to leave, we don’t know of any fatalities,” Desjarlais said.

Desjarlais said he was not sure how many people had died.

Access from the south end of Fort Myers Beach is now not possible, he said.

“If you’re heading south from Fort Myers Beach, you can’t even get to Bonita Springs,” Desjarlais said. “You have bridges you can’t drive over.”

The Little Hickory Pass bridge will need to be rebuilt, Desjarlais said.

Meanwhile, authorities said the Sanibel Road has failed in five places.

“FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) will begin design and construction to replace all broken sections of the bridge. How long it will take, I don’t know yet,” Desjarlais said. “There is no bottomless well of money in Lee County; everything we do, we have to be careful.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse Lee County for the next 30 days. The county is trying to get a 120-day extension, Desjarlais said.

Pendergrass responded to criticism that the county did not do enough to evacuate residents from the barrier islands.

“Seventy-two hours into the storm, we were still not inside the cone,” Pendergrass said.

People are becoming callous to storms, he said.

“They lived through the hurricane and said it was fine,” Pendergrass said.

But Ian was the worst case scenario.

“It would have been worse for the barrier islands, and that’s exactly what happened,” Pendergrass said.

In other news, Southwest Florida International Airport could reopen with limited capacity for commercial flights as early as Wednesday.

Ben Siegel, executive director of RSW, said the airport was opened shortly after Jan to support military rescue.

The airport will reopen for commercial flights on Wednesday, but with some changes, he said.

“It won’t be the airport you’re used to seeing; we’re going to have limited concessions,” Siegel said. “It’s going to be a slow rollout. Our issues have been with personnel.”