Which Fort Myers Beach houses damaged in Hurricane Ian must be demolished?

More than 1,000 homes and apartments on Fort Myers Beach were “substantially damaged” in Hurricane Ian and require demolition, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

According to a release by the Town of Fort Myers Beach, the evaluation helps FEMA document the total number of structures destroyed for flood insurance rate purposes, as well as federal aid funding.

The Corps investigated all the homes on Estero Island in October 2022, shortly after the storm made landfall at Cayo Costa, where wind speeds reached up to 155 miles an hour, just inches short of a Category 5 designation. The storm surge overtook many homes on the island at an estimated 18 feet in height.

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According to town floodplain manager Kristin Schumacher and senior planner Jason Smalley, homeowners who received a letter terming their property "substantially damaged" can dispute the assessment if they can show the property can be repaired to its pre-storm condition without violating FEMA's '50% Rule'.

Based on December data, 97% of all structures on the island were damaged in the hurricane. Reinsurer Swiss Re found Ian ranks as the second-largest insured loss in world history, behind only Hurricane Katrina.

Earlier this month, the town released a list of all residences that were found by the Corps to be “substantially damaged.” Many line the main thoroughfare Estero Boulevard. While homes on the Matanzas Pass side of the island fared better than those located on the Gulf-side, no part of the island went untouched; residences on the list stretch from the northern tip of the island all the way to the southern edge.

Per the U.S. Census, about 5,600 people live on Fort Myers Beach year-round. While the population swells to around 100,000 during season, approximately 90% of the homes on the island are occupied by their owners.

Made with Flourish
Made with Flourish

Those who must demolish their homes are faced with two choices: rebuild, taking care to stick to new, hurricane-proof building codes, or sell their lots to prospective buyers and developers.

In both Lee and Collier counties, investor activity, dominated by cash buyers, nearly doubled in the wreckage after Ian, as opposed to the months prior, according to real estate data analyst Parcl Labs.

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Fort Myers Beach map: More than 1,000 homes damaged by Ian face demolition