Southern bridges passable opening up the barrier islands in SWFL

Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:
Black Island in Southwest Florida. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Fort Myers Beach is now open to everyone since the southern bridges are now passable.

The bridges opened on Wednesday for the first time since the storm and it’s all happening while clean-up and recovery are in full force in Southwest Florida. But, like many things, not everyone is happy about the opening.

Driving to the Southwest Florida barrier islands is finally getting a bit easier. WINK News traveled over Big Hickory Pass, New Pass Bridge, Little Hickory Pass, and San Carlos Bay Pass in about 15 minutes.

Bridges to the barrier islands are now passable in SWFL. (CREDIT: WINK News)

But, once in that area, you see a place that looks like Ian passed by yesterday.

Bob Irzyk lives on Black Island and talked about what it’s like on the island.

“There’s still a nasty smell throughout,” Irzyk said.

“We’re behind,” Irzyk said. “Everybody else is way ahead of us here on Black Island, and we’re finally getting a chance to get in.”

And it’s especially not easy considering the fact that on Wednesday, 21 days since Ian’s landfall, is the first day the people living on Black Island have been allowed to go back and clean up their lives.

“We parked further away from our beach area thinking that if the water comes up with a storm surge, at least maybe being further away from the beach, we won’t have any issues,” Irzyk said. “Well, that obviously didn’t happen.”

While it is technically possible he could have gotten to his home by boat, the water is an issue unto itself.

“The water did all this. Moved cars around like they were Matchbox cars,” Irzyk said.

Some of the destruction seen caused by Ian on the barrier islands. (CREDIT: WINK News)

But that’s the thing, Black Island bridges the gap between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita, so Irzyk feels left in a grey area.

“We kind of feel like we were in limbo, because this three-building complex here in black Island, we are stuck between the big Carlos past bridge which was deemed unsafe,” Irzyk said. “And then the other three bridges to the south of us which were deemed unsafe. So these three buildings which have about 250 owners in them between the three, we’re just like, in the middle of it. So we kind of felt like we were a little bit forgotten…”

Irzyk even gets mail from Bonita and Fort Myers Beach.

“I’ve always considered us to be Fort Myers Beach,” Irzyk noted. “But we also get mail from Bonita because we are like right on the borderline. The border is here.”

And so Wednesday Irzyk began to pick up the pieces of his life for the first time since Ian.

“I was talking to the project manager this morning,” Irzyk said. “And she thinks it’s not going to be about a year until we are allowed to come back and live here possibly live here…”

There is a curfew in place for Black Island and for Fort Myers Beach, but they are somehow different curfews. Fort Myers Beach curfew is from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. while Black Island and Bonita’s curfew is 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

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