October 27, 2022


Rebuilding Florida After Hurricane Ian

By: Julia Canzano

Just over a month ago, Southwest Florida felt Mother Nature’s wrath as Hurricane Ian touched down in Cayo Costa, FL. Flood levels reached over 12 feet in some places and were so powerful that houses were ripped from their foundations. Boats ended up in the middle of the street, far away from any body of water or dock, and businesses on Fort Myers Beach weren’t just damaged—they completely disappeared. I watched as a place I’ve called home for the last 17 years, a place full of my family, friends, and wonderful memories of growing up completely changed in a few hours. And yet even with all the destruction, death, and debris of Hurricane Ian, Southwest Florida can and should rebuild. 

Southwest Florida represents the best of what America has to offer—in a state with no income tax, plenty of retirees, and endless summer, it’s no wonder that Southwest Florida was one of the fastest growing areas in the country. From the poorest of the poor living in trailer parks to the richest of the rich living in south Naples, everyone in Southwest Florida had their own slice of paradise. It’s an area that loves America, respects its veterans, and joins the rest of the state in pushing back against critical race theory and gender ideology in schools. 

Unlike the rest of the country that was shut down for months due to the pandemic, Southwest Florida didn’t face the same fearful and panic inducing rhetoric. Students returned to schools starting in Fall 2020, businesses never required proof of vaccination, and public mask wearing was mostly gone by Spring 2021. Residents of Southwest Florida have spent most of the last two years not hating their neighbor and instead returned to normalcy as soon as possible. With more money saved up from business not facing as many pandemic restrictions, plenty of retirees, and a touch of southern hospitality, Southwest Florida has approached the road to recovery quite strongly. 

Governor DeSantis has also been incredibly focused on helping Southwest Florida get back on its feet. Residents of Sanibel Island were told it might be weeks or even months before they would have access to their homes—but by cutting through bureaucratic red tape, the Florida Department of Transportation and local companies were able to rebuild a temporary version of the Sanibel causeway less than 3 weeks after the storm. It’s not socialist to want to call on the government to help in times of crisis—in fact, it’s exactly what the government is for. Socialism is a movement advocating for social ownership of the means of production—it’s not socialist to ask for the government’s temporary help in an emergency or for people to ask for federal assistance from FEMA. Cutting bureaucratic red tape to rebuild a temporary causeway to Sanibel helps everyone and puts more power in the hands of Southwest Florida residents, not less. 

There’s also been plenty of positive stories to come out of tragedy—the internet came together to help a woman find out whether her mom survived the storm, people worked to find the ashes of a Sanibel resident’s parents,  six corgis and their owners were rescued from Sanibel,  and a catholic school in Louisiana organized a donation drive to send to another catholic high school in Fort Myers, to name a few. More and more positive stories are needed not only to help those living in Southwest Florida, but to remind everyone else of the human element of the storm. It’s easy to watch video clips of water rushing into downtown Fort Myers and blame people for not evacuating but hearing positive stories from the people that live there might also change some hearts.  

Of course, the big question on everyone’s mind is how much damage future hurricanes might cause and the potential impacts of climate change on communities like Southwest Florida. Miles of canals cut through Cape Coral, and most of the land in Southwest Florida is at sea level. While there is some discussion about how climate change made the damage from Hurricane Ian far worse than predicted, newer buildings weathered the storm better than older ones. While much of Times Square on Fort Myers Beach was wiped out, a Margaritaville in the middle of construction was mostly unaffected. With situations like this in mind, Southwest Florida should have stronger building codes for new homes and businesses, but shouldn’t give up on restoring Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, downtown Fort Myers, and other places to the beautiful places they were before the storm. 

Southwest Florida has a long road ahead, and some businesses and historical sites won’t be coming back no matter how hard people try. But it’s home for over a million people, a vacation site for millions more, and not a place people will give up on. Southwest Florida will return stronger than ever someday and will be back to that slice of paradise for everyone.