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Progress is slow and pain is still fresh on Sanibel Island one year after Hurricane Ian

First resort reopens to visitors while insurance and contractor problems stall homeowner progress
Posted at 11:34 AM, Sep 29, 2023

SANIBEL ISLAND, Fla. — Rebuilding from the rubble, one year later. That is what you will find on Sanibel Island today, one year after Hurricane Ian decimated portions of the world-renowned destination on Florida’s west coast.

The storm reduced many of the homes, businesses and resorts on the island down to fragments of brick, branches, wood and memories.

Investigative Reporter Katie Lagrone and photojournalist Matthew Apthorp explore the recovery process around Sanibel Island.

Homeowner Jim Canner shared how he’s still waiting for insurance to help him fix multiple leaks in his home.

“It’s tough. It’s tough with insurance companies, we don’t get dispositions. We’re getting the run-around, same with contractors,” he told us recently.

Homeowner Heather Pak, who owns a plumbing business with her husband, is also dealing with insurance and contractor delays.

“What’s been your biggest frustration,” asked Reporter Katie LaGrone.

“The insurance companies and just trying to find someone who will do the work,” Pak said. “We’re in the business too, we’re swamped,” she said.

Recently, reporter Katie LaGrone and Photojournalist Matthew Apthorp went back to the island for the first time since they visited with a homeowner returning to her home for the first time after the hurricane one year ago.

Woman sees family home for first time on Sanibel Island after Hurricane Ian

LaGrone and Apthorp spoke with homeowners, business owners, tourists and the island’s Chamber of Commerce who describes some of the biggest challenges moving forward as the island continues to rebuild from the devastation.

Watch LaGrone and Apthorp’s raw, real, firsthand view of the pain that remains and the progress that’s slowly offering people there...hope.

Send your story idea and tips to Katie LaGrone