The message to people hit hardest by Hurricane Ian on Fort Myers Beach is, knock it down we will rebuild.
However, it’s easier said than done. People need wood, drywall, bricks, cement, and more materials to get their life back to the way it was. More than five months after the storm passed and people are still rebuilding on the island.
In October 2022, the United States Army Corps of Engineers evaluated all buildings on Fort Myers Beach to decide which ones required demolition and which needed to be further assessed for damage.
That evaluation helps FEMA document the number of buildings that were destroyed for funding and flood insurance rate purposes.
Fort Myers Beach has sent letters to the property owners listing whose houses were determined to be substantially damaged. The list is 23 pages long, single-spaced, and includes more than 1,000 total addresses.
Some people were surprised their homes or properties were included on the list, while others were stunned theirs weren’t included.
Brad Reeves, a property owner in Fort Myers Beach, thought he had it all figured out.
“My wife and I bought the property just over a year ago as a rental as an investment as part of our retirement plan. And it was doing very well as an Airbnb, lot of great reviews,” Reeves said.
But Reeves can’t figure out recovery efforts surrounding Hurricane Ian.
“I, fortunately, was here the day before, and I was able to get the home boarded up, protect it,” Reeves said.
The second-story rentals on his property faired pretty well compared to many others nearby.
“Fortunately, most of its cosmetic in terms of what we’re having to repair,” Reeves said.
Although Reeves did have to gut his downstairs unit, making matters worse for Reeves, his source of income drifted away just like the storm did. So Reeves was forced to get back to work. And when he’s not back at work, he is at his property fixing it up himself.
“I’ve done all this kind of work before fortunately, but the contractor prices are they’re crazy. You know? Who could blame him? I mean this at some level, this is their golden age,” Reeves said.
Reeves’s property is one of the more than 1,000 homes and properties deemed substantially damaged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Ian.
“They gutted everything out at my residence. And I don’t know how long it’s gonna be till it gets put back in shape,” Ellie, a property owner in Fort Myers Beach, said.
Two of Ellie’s properties are on that 23-page list. One of them was a home that’s been in her family since the 70s and the other are rental units that were also gutted. It’s been a slow rebuilding process for her.
“Everybody’s trying to get permitted. Many homes are down,” Ellie said.
A lot of work remains undone and the question many people are asking is, when will it get done? A window contractor at the beach told WINK News on Tuesday that it can be tough getting necessary parts, sometimes waiting as long as six months for the parts.
Late Tuesday afternoon the mayor of Fort Myers Beach said in a Facebook post that FEMA used its 50/50 rule to determine what homes and buildings suffered “substantial damage.” Because Fort Myers Beach is a special flood hazard area that triggers a series of requirements for rebuilding. The full statement can be seen below.
Click here to see the full Facebook post from the Fort Myers Beach mayor.