Fort Myers Beach 18 months later: recovery and reopening

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Emma Heaton
Published: Updated:

Eighteen months after Hurricane Ian, Fort Myers Beach has shown tremendous progress, but painful reminders of what happened remain.

Most of the debris is picked up and many homes have been repaired.

Meantime, many condo buildings remain closed and show no indication of re-opening.

What’s the holdup?

Insurance companies and supply chain shortages. 

Fort Myers Beach Vice Mayor Jim Atterholt talked about the challenges condo owners face when it comes to reopening their buildings, pointing his finger toward insurance companies not expediting claims.

Atterholt also said supply chain issues are causing delays.

The silver lining?

The vice mayor expects most of the condos to be back up and running by the end of this year. 

Condo buildings make up a signifcant percentage of the island.

“My hope is, by the end of the year, the vast majority of them will be open,” said Atterholt, adding that roughly half the condominiums on the island are already back open.

Atterholt said his message is a plea to the state insurance commissioner and to the CFO of the state to keep the pressure on these insurance companies.

“It’s, quite frankly, corrupted the way they’re treating the customers here in Fort Myers Beach, and it’s really thwarting our recovery,” said Atterholt, “and we really need your help to put the pressure on them to pay legitimate claims now.”

Meantime, the people of Fort Myers Beach are still surrounded by sad reminders of the hurricane 18 months later.

Jo Ann Knobloch lost her husband, Karl, during the hurricane when an object hit his head.

“He was lost, so I think he just completely lost it, didn’t know where he was, and he laid down in the water, floated out, and I mean, I was in such trauma. I couldn’t even scream or anything,” said Knobloch.

Eighteen months later, Knobloch misses her husband every day and hasn’t recovered from the terrifying experience.

“I just hope that I don’t have to ever go through this again. I mean, I’d like it to be a once-in-a-lifetime horror because I don’t want to go through it again,” said Knobloch.

Atterholt said before the storm, 7,000 people were living on the island.

Now, just 3,000 people reside there.

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