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Sanibel Island, Fla., Population Goes from 6,400 to 20

It is a reflection of the damages and services available.

When you think about the fury of Hurricane Ian, then you have to also think about the long-term impacts to people and property for those who stood in its path.

A perfect example of what an almost Category 5 hurricane will do can be found on Sanibel Island. A CNN story reported that about 20 people remain on the island. A quick description of the island:

"Sanibel is an island and city in Lee County, Florida, United States. The population was 6,382 at the 2020 census.[4] It is part of the Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. The island, also known as Sanibel Island, constitutes the entire city. It is a barrier island—a collection of sand on the leeward side of the more solid coral-rock of Pine Island.

Most of the city proper is at the east end of the island. After the Sanibel causeway was built to replace the ferry in May 1963, the city was incorporated in 1974 and the residents asserted control over development by
establishing the Sanibel Comprehensive Land Use Plan, helping to maintain a balance between development and preservation of the island's ecology.[5]As of September 28, 2022, the causeway was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ian.

Due to easy causeway access, Sanibel is a popular tourist destination known for its shell beaches and wildlife refuges."

It is a popular tourist attraction. My wife, sister and I took a day trip to the Island a number of years ago. Eating and shopping our way through the tourist attractions.

Should a "barrier island" be rebuilt to only suffer future damages from a "yet to be named storm?" What mitigation efforts can be undertaken to lessen the damages from a future storm? Raised structures? Will zoning and building codes be changed fast enough to impact the rebuilding on the island—that is sure to come.

While some reconstruction work will be done, I expect the causeway and actual bridge that connects the island to the mainland will first have to be repaired and made functional.

My opinion is that the urge to rebuild will conquer any efforts to rebuild in a more resilient manner. Maybe after another storm in 5-10 years lays waste to the same spot in the future, perhaps there will be those who think differently. Now, it will be a race to rebuild as fast as possible.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.