FORT MYERS, Fla. — Lee County leaders met to update the communities hardest hit by Hurricane Ian on their rescue and recovery efforts.
"This is 'Welcome to Day 5,'" County Manager Roger Desjarlais said as he began to speak about the efforts of first responders primarily at Fort Myers Beach and other stranded areas like Pine and Sanibel islands.
Eleven U. S. Army Reserve units and strike teams are on site in Lee County working almost 24 hours a day until all rescue and recovery missions are complete, Desjarlais explained.
The Lee County Sports Complex is being used as a staging location for first responders, according to the county manager. He wants to remind residents that it's not a place to pick up food and water and other first aid relief items.
In the wake of Hurricane Ian, hospitals are beginning to get back online and additional disaster assistance teams, medical units and hospital workers are on the way in to assist where they are needed, Desjarlais explained. In addition, the old Sears building at the Edison Mall will reopen for a healthcare center.
The Department of Transportation is also working to get traffic signals back working, but until then, drivers are urged to approach intersections without traffic lights with caution.
As far as the Sanibel Causeway bridge that allows traffic in and out of Sanibel Island, Desjarlais said construction has begun to build a temporary bridge expected to be complete in the next five to eight days. Construction has also begun on Bonita Beach Road in Fort Myers as it's a crucial access point to Fort Myers Beach.
"People, please be a little bit patient," Desjarlaid asked as he spoke to the restoration efforts underway.
Some projects first responders are still working on restoring include clearing debris, access to water and cleanup from gasoline and diesel spilled from the boat wreckage across the coast.
The Coast Guard is asking residents who see oil spills from boat debris to report it to 1-800-424-8802.
Desjarlais also addressed rumors as the county works to provide relief for all areas impacted by the hurricane.
"There's lots of rumors out there that sound like Lee County is trying to starve people off Pine Island because they're not getting food," Desjarlais said. "The truth is that food is being delivered to Pine Island. Now is it enough to sustain them over a long period of time? I can't say that yet, none of us can, but it is a National Guard mission. Food is being dropped and will continue to be dropped at the three fire stations on Pine Island."
Desjarlais said if you're hearing rumors, please go to their website and report them and they will try to fact-check them.
All in all, the county is asking the various communities that are now looking to rebuild after Hurricane Ian to be patient as this process gets underway.