Hurricane Ian made landfall on September 30, 2022. It was the third-costliest weather disaster on record and the 5th-strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States. It had an unprecedented storm surge of 10-15 feet. Ian caused one hundred forty-nine fatalities in Florida alone, and damages and losses estimated at 113 billion dollars.
How does a region with boating ingrained in its lifestyle and history recover from such an unprecedented natural disaster? How, when entire waterfront communities had been washed away, and many of those most closely affected had made their living on Southwest Florida waters? Boating community losses spanned businesses and property to environmental and navigational and persisted after Ian passed.
Immediately following the storm, several agencies, organizations, and volunteers rolled up their sleeves and got to work, despite suffering losses of their own. The stories of heroism abounded. Law enforcement agencies from across the state, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Coast Guard, National Guard soldiers and airmen, marine businesses and industry organizations, fishing captains, and an endless list of volunteers mobilized to mitigate emergencies and begin the work to get our waterways on the road to recovery. Hurricane relief funds were also distributed to help those in the marine industry affected by the storm.
With an event this impactful, recovery can be a slow process. However, fast forward six months after Ian made landfall, and much progress has been made. Hundreds of derelict and upland vessels out of an estimated 900 displaced have been removed, according to the FWC. 597,000 cubic yards of wet debris were removed (559,000 in Lee County alone). Over 750 displaced or damaged channel markers and navigational aids are being replaced or repaired with a finish date targeted for the end of June.
There is still a long way to go, but derelict vessel removal continues progressing, channel markers are being replaced, and marine businesses are rebuilding. And who knows, maybe another six months from now, we’ll find ourselves pulled up on our favorite sandbar or sending a shrimp sailing towards a tailing red, with fewer worries and Hurricane Ian far in the rearview.
Following are several active resources that can help and provide reporting on the recovery process:
• Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Derelict Vessel Program:
Call 850-488-5600, or visit https://myfwc.com/boating/waterway/derelict-vessels/
• The Florida Department of Emergency Management has set up 850-961-2002 for reporting vessels or other titled property and debris on uplands.
• Report Damaged or Missing Navigational Aids
Email: [email protected]
• Hurricane Ian Debris Removal Program
• Hurricane Ian Debris Removal Dashboards
• Water Quality Status Dashboard