Power may not be restored in Fort Myers Beach for at least a month after Hurricane Ian destroyed the electrical infrastructure, according to Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais.
Officials cannot keep people from returning to their homes, but it isn't safe because of the widespread damage as well as the lack of water and electricity, Desjarlais told a news conference Monday.
Statewide, more than 500,000 customers remain without power, according to PowerOutage.Us.
The county is still unsure of the number of people who are missing and that the search and rescue efforts will continue, Desjarlais said, adding that the death toll is uncertain but that the medical examiner will be releasing information in the coming days.
When a reporter asked him about whether or not residents were given enough time to evacuate, he said the county made the decision to evacuate at the earliest time possible.
“It's unfortunate that so many people chose not to evacuate. You know, I think I told you the other day we had room for 40,000 people in our shelters, but only 4000 showed up — which means that people made the conscious choice not to evacuate, and it is regretful and you know, no one feels worse than we do about all that. But, based on all of the conditions at the time I wouldn't change a thing.”
Fort Myers Beach is located on Estero Island in southwest Florida and has a population of around 5,600 people, according to the US Census.
Fort Myers Beach councilmember Dan Allers last week estimated that 90% of the island buildings were gone, including businesses that had been there for decades and had weathered several hurricanes.
"When I say gone, it's not just the insides of the houses — it's brick homes, it's houses that were on stilts, wood homes," Allers told CNN. "It's gone."