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Fort Myers

FMB Strong – Fort Myers Beach Works to Pick Up the Pieces

| Vicky Sullivan |

I am a beach girl.  I grew up on north Longboat Key and I love Salt Life!  I have spent many weekends over the years on Fort Myers Beach, one of my favorite areas of the Southwest coast of Florida.  The counties of Southwest Florida include Sarasota, Charlotte, Collier and Lee County, which was the hardest hit by Hurricane Ian at the end of September of 2022.  Beautiful Fort Myers Beach took a direct hit. As a photographer, I had wanted to drive down south to snap some photos of history made by a category four storm, but as a lover of the area I wasn’t ready. I still wasn’t ready in October, November or December.  I finally decided to drive south on New Year’s Monday, January 2nd.  Believe me, even after three months I was not prepared for what I was going to see.  I have been through no name storms and Cat One hurricanes here on the Suncoast, but we have been a very lucky bunch to not have experienced such devastation.

Fort Myers Beach

Driving over the bridge to FMB, I could immediately see a difference in the familiar view I have seen so many times over the years.  Buildings were gone or just shells of their former businesses on the public beach area called “Times Square” by the locals.  Many restaurants and shops had thrived there along with the public dock always busy with fisherman and tourists.  The dock was badly damaged, and the shops are closed for now.  Driving down the main drag of Estero Blvd. there were more shocking scenes of houses gone or off their foundations.  Piles of debris that will take much work and time to remove. Some homes were untouched, and some streets looked like war zones.  Several of the churches on Estero Blvd. have been badly damaged.  It is not safe to walk on the beach or in the water in bare feet as the sand is full of hidden wreckage. and the curfew for non-residents is 7 p.m. Bring garbage bags to take your trash home, they don’t have receptacles for it.  Yet, signs of hope and cleanup are all around on FMB!

Hurricane After Effects

On the day I was there live music was playing in Times Square with a crowd gathered around, people were on the beach and walking around Estero Blvd. Yo! Taco food truck is open for biz on Estero Blvd, Yucatan Beach Stand Bar & Grill, Lighthouse Resort and Wahoo Willie’s.  They need your support but be sure to bring cash with you since WIFI is spotty and credit cards may not work. Please keep the traffic moving by pulling over to take photos or video. People here are working, there are massive machines all around the island being used for clean-up and various work.  It is a slow process, but the residents of Fort Myers Beach love their community and are determined to rebuild!  There are many GoFundMe accounts for various businesses and churches if you would like to donate.  They are community beach cleanups if you want to volunteer, check out Facebook and the Internet for information on Fort Myers   Beach.

Beach Fort Myers

We ventured over to Sanibel Island to find its bridge is now open, but the speed limit is 20 mph so there is no hurry on your getting to Periwinkle Way. We attempted to drive to the famed lighthouse, but the area is closed and there is a heavy police presence all around the island.  Jerry’s Foods has reopened and a couple of restaurants on Sanibel as well as on Captiva are back in business, but much is closed and like FMB needs time and care to rebuild. Even with all the damage, the natural beauty of this area still shines. Through the resilience of the local residents, they will bring back these beautiful island towns!

Photos by Vicky Sullivan

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