Sanibel City Manager Dana Souza announced residents and business owners are able to access the island to inspect their properties and retrieve any personal items starting today, Oct. 5, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., by private watercraft. Souza said it will be enter your own risk and with your own resources.
Here is what you need to know about reentering the island:
The city is not providing transportation to the island, which is now accessible only by boat since parts of the causeway were washed away by Hurricane Ian. And there is no ground transportation on the island.
Private boats are not allowed to land at the city’s boat ramp or the ramp at Tarpon Bay Explorers. Boats are also not permitted at the Punta Rassa and Port Comfort ramps. Anyone who attempts to access those locations will be turned away.
Anyone on the island after 7 p.m. is subject to “law enforcement,” Souza said. There is a curfew in place from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and there are no exceptions. See the city’s curfew ordinance here.
Those returning to the island must present a Florida driver’s license with a Sanibel address or a hurricane reentry pass. Passes are available at the temporary city hall, Crown Plaza Hotel, 13051 Bell Tower Dr., Fort Myers.
Business owners will need a valid 2022 or 2023 Sanibel Business Tax Receipt to receive a pass.
Renters of residential properties must provide a government-issued identification, as well as a rental agreement or utility bill verifying residency.
Contractors must have a commercial reentry pass or be accompanied by a property owner with a pass at all times. The city is not issuing new passes to contractors at this time, unless authorized by Souza or his designee.
All other individuals on the island to assist island residents or business owners must be accompanied by the property owner at all times.
City leaders stressed the dangerous conditions in the water around the island and dangers on the island. They said the waterway, including canals, is hazardous. Traversing the island also poses many dangers.
There are damaged or destroyed bridges, such as the one on the east end of the island, roadways and other infrastructure. Public and private structures have also been damaged or destroyed. Wildlife, such as alligators, have been displaced. All of those hazards exist on public property and rights of way.
Anyone entering a structure should assume it is unstable and dangerous, the city said this morning. “Structures assessed as destroyed, with major damage or inaccessible by the Urban Search and Rescue Teams should be considered unsafe.”
USAR completed the damage assessment of island properties Monday, Oct. 3, and uploaded data can be accessed online. Data is still being uploaded to the system and should be used for general reference purposes only, the city said. “The map is not a guarantee of condition or any official city map and should not relied upon as such.”
Irrespective of any USAR assessment information, individuals are highly discouraged from coming to and traveling within the territorial limits of the City of Sanibel at this time, and those who ignore those warnings do so at their own risk.