)
Advertisement
  1. Local Weather
  2. /
  3. Hurricane

‘I’m hoping he shows up’: Pine Island community grapples with Ian’s aftermath

Hurricane Ian’s eye slashed through the Southwest Florida island leaving residents searching for loved ones and surveying destruction.
Damage and destruction is seen along Pine Island Road Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Matlacha.
Damage and destruction is seen along Pine Island Road Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Matlacha. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Sep. 30|Updated Sep. 30

MATLACHA — Just past Island Pho & Grill, the road to Pine Island fell into the pass.

Hurricane Ian’s eye slashed through this area, dropping the one road in or out. People who chose to ride out the storm were stranded — in St. James City, Bokeelia and elsewhere.

Aimee Sansing, 46, has driven the road every day for a couple of decades. She decided to evacuate late, but her 38-year-old brother stayed behind.

She hadn’t heard from him since 2 p.m. Wednesday, when he texted that an oak tree had split, damaging her roof.

That was a little more than an hour before Ian made landfall as a merciless Category 4 hurricane, among the strongest to ever hit the U.S.

On Thursday, Sansing had tried to drive back to Pine Island at daybreak. But a police officer she knew stopped her and told her the road leading to Bokeelia was gone.

There was no way to get to her brother.

“I’m hoping he shows up by boat,” she said.

Related: Friday live updates: Florida recovers as Hurricane Ian targets Carolinas

She saw the washout for the first time at about 5:30 p.m., under a bright sun and blue sky.

Other signs of the storm surrounded her.

A stretch of roadway in Matlacha leading out to Pine Island is seen Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Matlacha. Storm surge from Hurricane Ian was washed away the roadway.
A stretch of roadway in Matlacha leading out to Pine Island is seen Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Matlacha. Storm surge from Hurricane Ian was washed away the roadway. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

A Ford Focus rested just above the water, caught between chunks of grass and concrete. Waves slapped against snapped wood from broken buildings. The fronds of the palm trees all faced south.

A dead bird lay on the roadway that remained, next to snaking power lines.

“I didn’t know the extent of it until just now,” Sansing said, shaking.

Related: Hurricane Ian moves to South Carolina; storm surge still possible in Florida

Boats chugged past on both sides of the narrow strip of land that makes up Matlacha, headed toward the big island.

Sansing’s mother-in-law, who hunkered down with her during the storm in Cape Coral, said it was impossible to explain. Words couldn’t capture the destruction.

“It’s just unfathomable,” Sansing said.

Beside her, Carina Sommers, 54, and Michael Lindsay, 61, were seeing the aftermath for the second time. The storm had hammered their personal training, skincare and massage business, Matlacha Wellness. They’d first driven out from Cape Coral on Wednesday night, when Lindsay feared their building would no longer be standing.

It was, but looked different with damage to the roof, interior and dock.

They have clients who chose to stay on the island during the hurricane.

“We’re afraid that the worst could have happened,” Lindsay said.

Staring at the wreckage, Sommers and Lindsay contemplated their future.

“How do you rebuild this?” he asked.

And she wondered: “How long’s it going to take?”

Damage and destruction is seen along Pine Island Road Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Matlacha.
Damage and destruction is seen along Pine Island Road Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Matlacha. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage

HOW TO HELP: Where to donate or volunteer to help Hurricane Ian victims.

TAMPA BAY CLOSURES: What to know about bridges, roads in Ian’s aftermath

WHEN THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.

POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.

WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?

WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.

SCHOOLS: Will schools reopen quickly after Hurricane Ian passes? It depends.

MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge