'We've done it before': Residents confident Pine Island will rebuild after Hurricane Ian

Matlacha artist Leoma Lovegrove says her house suffered heavy damage, including a demolished garage and the back wall.

But, miraculously, she said her art gallery appears to be unscathed from Hurricane Ian, which made landfall in Lee County on Thursday afternoon.

“It’s like nothing ever touched it. It’s unbelievable,” she said from Ohio, where she’s been since before the hurricane. “I  can’t believe it. I nearly fell to the ground and started screaming when I saw it was there. Because everything around me’s demolished.”

Lovegrove said someone sent her photos of the gallery. She hasn’t seen photos of her house yet, but she’s heard about it.

More: 'They are stranded there.' Pine Island resident who evacuated says she's worried about those who stayed on island

AND: Hurricane Ian: Lee County urges residents to stay off the roads. Here's what you need to know

“The garage is completely gone,” she said. “The whole back of the house is gone, so it’s all exposed to the elements.”

Still, Lovegrove said she’s grateful that her gallery still remains standing, at least.

“I’m just glad that I have a building to go to,” she said.

One resident who evacuted to Fort Myers said she's anxious about returning to her Pine Island home but realizes she cannot yet because there's no way of access it.

The destruction along Pine Island Road leading into Matlacha on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.
The destruction along Pine Island Road leading into Matlacha on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.

Helen Fox, president of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association, said she’s stayed in touch with people on the island. Although she admits it hasn’t been easy: Cell phone service is down and texts only occasionally work.

She said St. James City and Matlacha got hit the hardest. “There’s incredible devastation.”

Fox wants to return to the island to do her duties as association president, but she’s said that’s been impossible with the bridges down.

“The big problem is there’s no access to the island,” she said. “There’s no way of getting in and out because the road is completely washed away. … We desperately need that causeway, the roadway there, to be repaired as soon as possible so people can move building supplies, food and all of that."

She also said while she's looking forward to returning, she remains anxious.

“We are afraid that the death toll on Pine Island is really going to be something, although we don’t have any hard data about that right now," Fox said.

She remained confident that Matlacha and Pine Island will recover from the destruction. It just might take a while.

“The island will rebuild,” she said. “We’ve done it before. But it may take years, and we need all the help we can get.”

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Pine Island residents confident community will rebuild after Ian