At least 4 dead on Sanibel, officials say

Writer: Melissa Montoya
Published: Updated:
A screenshot from a WINK News reporter video shows the devastation on the Sanibel Causeway. (CREDIT: WINK News)

At least four people are dead following Ian’s destructive path on Sanibel.

Sanibel City Manager Dana Souza said the four dead have not been identified. Souza did not say how they died.

Sanibel Mayor Holly Smith said the Island is not habitable now.

“There is right now, not something for us to come home to,” Smith said. “I don’t know how clearly I can say we are closed. Don’t come to the Island.”

Officials said the Island probably won’t be habitable until next year. Sanibel residents should think about housing in the longterm because every structure on the Island was affected by the storm surge.

Patience is needed, she said.

At least 60 people were rescued from the Island, Souza said.

A team of 80 from Urban Search and Rescue was deployed to Sanibel to help with rescue operations. Souza said the team is leaving an “X” on the door of the structure they visited so other rescue crews will know.

“Most of the structures we have on the island are wood and there was extensive damage that we saw,” Souza said. “Our resort area is really heavily, heavily damaged.”

Souza painted an image of a town ravaged by hurricane waters.

“We saw a house that was on the middle of the road as we approached West Gulf,” Souza said.

Vegetation on the Island has been destroyed, he said.

The Public Works Department is continuing to work to clean the roads.

Officials said the buildings that were designed to withstand the storm did, but those that weren’t didn’t.

The Sanibel Lighthouse was also affected, Souza said.

“This beloved symbol of our island has been changed,” Souza said.

Souza said it will be some time before residents can return to the Island.

Sanibel Police Chief William Dalton said officers will be back on the island beginning on Friday.

Dalton said his department has asked for assistance from the National Guard.

Public access to Sanibel by boat is prohibited at this time.

Hurricane Ian slammed into the city on Wednesday, causing damage to the Sanibel Causeway.

There is a 24-hour curfew in effect for Lee County that also applies to Sanibel.

During the morning hours on Friday, first responders were conducting a search and rescue operation and individuals attempting to get access to the island are interfering with life-saving actions, according to a press release from Sanibel.

The City of Sanibel has also established a new phone number.

The city can be contacted at 239-603-7261.

Well-being check:

If you are aware of someone who stayed on the island during Ian and you need to report a well-being check, please send an email to

Include your name and phone number as well as the following information:

  • Name of individual
  • Address
  • Phone number


If you have resources such as boats, equipment, services, skills, etc. and would like to volunteer, please send an email to and provide the following information:

  • Name
  • Resource available
  • Phone number
  • Email address

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