Amazingly, our sign survived Hurricane Ian — It’s indeed a “sign” of our resilience!
Yes, that’s an actual tree that flew into this unit — Roots and all!
Starting to clean up …
… And there’s an awful lot to clean up!
It’s crazy what survived the storm (… and I don’t mean just us ladies!)
Ocean’s Reach is cleaning up nicely …
… Very nicely indeed!
One month later and it seems as though the world has already moved on from Hurricane Ian, but for those of us who live and work on Sanibel Island, our efforts have just begun.
It’s difficult to describe what we’ve been through the past 30 days; the initial stages of shock and grief have been replaced by physically grueling days, colossally wide emotional swings and countless levels of just sheer exhaustion.
The scale and scope of rebuilding has begun to settle in.
High piles of debris line every street of the island, containing the same heartbreaking combination of drenched furniture, battered appliances and well-loved keepsakes. Cars have ended up in pools; boats have ended up in trees; sheets of rooftop metal have ended up impaled everywhere. Precious mementos are being found miles from their homes, as if engaged in the cruelest type of treasure hunt, while so many others have been simply washed away to parts unknown.
“It’s like a bomb went off,” you hear over and over again as you look out at the once-pristine island landscape that now looks borderline apocalyptic.
Islanders have always had a great respect for Mother Nature. After experiencing 155 mph winds and up to a 12-foot storm surge, that respect has grown exponentially.
And the sprint of survival has given way to the marathon of rebuilding.
Temporary repairs to the Sanibel Causeway were completed with breakneck speed, allowing vehicular access to the island for the first time ten days ago. Crews in the hundreds are working non-stop to restore power and water, which are expected to be available island-wide within the next few weeks. The Sanibel School has relocated to a facility off-island, allowing children to stay connected with their friends and teachers. Local churches and organizations have been providing everything from ice and water to hot meals, showers and charging stations. Sewer and internet services are still in the early rebuilding stages, but in a huge step, Jerry’s Supermarket re-opened just days ago, marking another milestone in the island’s recovery.
At Ocean’s Reach, we have been moving quickly to stabilize what we can and begin the long road of demolition and reconstruction. Structural assessments and detailed moisture mapping have been completed. Contractors have been hired and clean-up work is well along. Insurance adjusters and remediation experts have also been on the scene. Our roofs have held up fairly well, but not surprisingly, the massive storm surge has decimated lower level units, carports, amenities and our office building. Demolition is scheduled to begin later this week where needed.
We fully plan to rebuild and re-open “better than ever.” We will keep you posted on our timelines as soon as they become more definitive.
In the meantime, we have begun issuing refunds for all reservations from September 27, 2022 – December 16, 2023. Please be patient with us as we have close to 3,000 reservations to refund, which have to be done individually and remotely. Refunds are being processed in chronological order based on arrival date. We hope to have these transactions completed within the next two months. Again, we appreciate your patience and understanding.
Lastly, many of you have asked how our staff is doing, as most of us live on Sanibel Island. We are a resilient bunch and doing our best to persevere:
- Andy has relocated to downtown Fort Myers; his home sustained major damage, or as he says, “You can see the stars from where my dining room ceiling used to be.” He was evacuated from the island in a military Chinook and even made it onto CNN; click here if you did not see him on TV.
- Lisa and Mike are our “boots on the ground” at Ocean’s Reach. They both stayed on island during the storm as the brave souls they are, so in return for that frightful experience, they have been able to get a head start on rebuilding their respective homes. Between the two of them, they lost five vehicles in the storm surge. Mike is now living in an apartment in Fort Myers, while Lisa has found a place in Cape Coral. They are both diligently at work helping our owners identify hurricane damage in their units and are on-site as much as possible to help with the reconstruction efforts.
- Sue and Carl had a ground-level home on Sanibel which sadly sustained widespread water damage. They are staying at her niece’s home in Fort Myers while figuring out their next steps.
- John, gratefully, eluded the storm at his home in North Carolina near his grandchildren.
- Adolfo shared that he and his family are fine, but his home in Cape Coral was damaged and a tree fell on his car.
- Candy also lost her car in the storm surge but is safe at her home in Fort Myers. She has joined Andy in setting up a temporary office in his condo downtown.
- And yours truly is temporarily living with relatives in Sarasota, as my (Dina’s) home was also mangled by Hurricane Ian. We had a 7-foot storm surge, roof damage and one exterior wall completely flew off the house. In a twisted sense of irony, we were planning to downsize and were scheduled to put our house on the market the week after the storm!
For those of you who have supported the GoFundMe campaign for Ocean’s Reach staff, we want to send out our heartfelt appreciation. It means more to us than you’ll ever know. If you have not yet had a chance to check it out, please click here.
Your countless emails and letters of support have meant a great deal to all of us. We may not have been able to respond to them, but just knowing that our “Ocean’s Reach family” is behind us gives us all strength to continue to rebuild and revitalize our island paradise.
We look forward to welcoming you back in the future and remain,