A temporary bridge is in place for Pine Island, Fla., after state officials mobilized crews to restore mainland access to barrier islands cut off when Hurricane Ian washed away roads and bridges last month. President Joe Biden (D) joined Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Oct. 5 in touring the hardest-hit parts of the state, with the governor announcing the five-day emergency Pine Island project and plans to finish repair of the causeway to Sanibel Island by the end of October.
Once immediate recovery efforts have subsided, permanent long-term repairs will be made to the causeway, with temporary access work to be incorporated, says the Florida Dept. of Transportation. All accessible state-owned bridges have been inspected with personnel now moving to assist with locally owned bridge inspections.
According to an Oct. 4 announcement, DeSantis has directed the agency to prioritize causeway repairs needed for island access by first responders and residents.
“Much like Pine Island, the Sanibel Causeway was affected when the land that the road was built on washed away,” said department Secretary Jared Perdue. “A bridge stability analysis will be performed, and repairs needed range from repairing bridge approaches to restoring the roadway across most of the causeway.”
Biden and DeSantis both noted the level of devastation they saw on the barrier islands, including concrete power poles snapped in half, many downed power lines and massive amounts of debris.
"You can see a whole hell of a lot of damage from the air," said Biden, who also walked through damaged areas, announcing that the 30-day 100% federal cost coverage for individual assistance and debris removal for 17 Florida counties will be extended to 60 days. That debris cleanup effort could cost billions, he said, adding that more than 200,000 families have already applied for that assistance, and that he expects DeSantis to request the coverage period to be extended again.
FEMA has allocated tens of millions of dollars for individual assistance, providing families with funds to replace essential items, support temporary rentals and begin home repairs, according to the White House.
Biden has also directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deploy more than 550 personnel for engineering assessments for water infrastructure and emergency power needs, working to install generators and support critical infrastructure with a focus on hospitals and long-term care facilities, water treatment and wastewater plants and public-safety organizations.
DeSantis said more than 97% of the state has had power restored, with Florida Power & Light reporting restoration in 85% of hard-hit Lee County. "Major, major reconstruction of the power in Sanibel is going to be necessary," he said.
As of Oct. 5, the utility reported power restored to 92% of its customers affected by Ian, numbering about 2.1 million, with around 175,000 still without. The majority of main power lines have now been fully energized, according to an update by Florida Power & Light, which estimates that 95% of those affected customers will have power restored by Oct. 7.
On Oct. 5, CNN reported the hurricane-linked death toll at about 125—120 in Florida and five in North Carolina