The Sanibel Causeway, which snapped in three places when Hurricane Ian slammed into Southwest Florida on Sept. 28, has received temporary repairs and is now open to power restoration crews and other emergency workers.
The first few trucks carrying supplies and workers traveled over the bridge to Sanibel Island shortly after Gov. Ron DeSantis made the announcement Tuesday.
“As you can see you’ve got to go pretty slow because this is a temporary patch,” DeSantis told reporters as the trucks ambled over the bridge.
For civilian vehicles, the bridge won’t be available until Oct. 24, DeSantis said. As of the 2020 Census, Sanibel’s population was 6,382.
But the temporary patches will allow power restoration vehicles, including 200 bucket trucks, 150 pickup trucks and two tractor trailers to get onto Sanibel to boost efforts to restore power there. As of 6 a.m. Tuesday there were 18,560 homes and businesses in Lee County still without power since Ian swept through the area, most of them on barrier islands like Sanibel.
Immediately after Ian hit there were 2.8 million homes and businesses without power. Two weeks later the only other areas with residents still without power are Charlotte County (20) and Collier County (780).
The causeway was built in 1963, and before that ferries were used to transport people and goods to the island.
Airlifts and barges have helped move some equipment onto Sanibel and Pine Island to help power restoration efforts there, but DeSantis said fixing the bridge is key to getting those areas back on the grid.
A temporary fix to the bridge leading to Pine Island was finished last week, and crews from Duke Energy, Florida Power and Light and the Lee County Electrical Cooperation are helping get power back on there. A release from DeSantis’ office said power should be restored to 25% of Pine Island by Thursday and 33% of the island by next week.