FORT MYERS, Fla. — Almost everything on Fort Myers Beach feels makeshift.

What You Need To Know

  • Hurricane Ian devastated the Fort Myers area in September 2022

  • Fort Myers Beach councilman Bill Veach said that although the town is recovering, the process has been slow

  • Some residents are optimistic yet realistic about the future of Fort Myers

Anyone currently living in a house on the island likely has an RV parked out front, helping to provide the necessities the house can’t offer.

Most restaurant owners operate out of tents in parking lots, attempting to feed the residents and workers while bringing some money into the business.

And the local government holds meetings in a temporary location, near the former town hall that is now destroyed and destined for demolition.

It’s reality in the town of 6,000 full-time residents on Estero Island. Fort Myers Beach was one of the hardest hit areas when Hurricane Ian roared onshore last September. Recovery has been incremental and slowed by red tape.

“The construction trucks and the nails being hammered are going to be the sound of the beach for the next few years,” said Bill Veach, a Fort Myers Beach town councilman.

Veach lost his beachfront cottage to the storm. He found portions of the house three blocks away. Only his nearby garage withstood Ian’s storm surge and wind: it now sports a watermark 15 feet off the ground.

Damages like that are a common sight on Fort Myers Beach now, flanked by piles of concrete that needs to be disposed of. But Veach says the debris that remains nine months after the storm is nothing compared to where they were in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane.

“The debris removal was critical,” Veach said. “You can’t start to rebuild when you’ve got someone else’s house in your hard.”

But even with less debris blocking the way, the rebuilding process has been slow, stalled by disputes with insurance companies. Still, there are some signs of progress and recovery on the island, with the sight and sound of construction crews doing work on many houses and businesses.

Publix scheduled a re-opening on Fort Myers Beach for May 25. The Liki Tiki Barbeque restaurant re-opened at a new building in May as well, having moved from a beachside location that Ian wiped out.

“I still won’t drive down the beach because it hurts,” says Gordan Stojkoski, the owner at Liki Tiki.

Yet, Stojkoski is optimistic about the future of Fort Myers Beach, citing the opening of the Margaritaville Resort – slated for late 2023 – as the centerpiece of the recovery. But he’s also realistic. He said that it would take years to fully make it back.

“Anybody that thinks differently is just lying to themselves,” Stojkoski said.