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Hurricane Ian Ballyhoo: A lot of info you need to know

October 14, 2022
By Marcy Shortuse


Need to apply for FEMA? Here’s the best way to handle it from an expert’s point of view …

Matthew Behnke is a Director in the  Communications Division, Office of External Affairs, for FEMA. We asked him why many people who applied for FEMA assistance with housing assistance or personal property and have only received a pending status. We explained that some people were able to go to the “tent cities” where FEMA was located and walk away with cash in hand, and we wanted to know what the difference was. We have written his answer below.

Survivors have several ways to apply for FEMA assistance, including calling 800-621-3362. However, the phonelines can get busy and have long wait times, so they are encouraged to also utilize or via the FEMA mobile app. 

In the impacted areas we do have Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs); currently there are two DRCs in Lee County. There is also one at the Port Charlotte mall. Survivors can go to a DRC to register, but we recommend they go online or call, as the DRC lines have been long. 

We also have Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams out canvasing neighborhoods, which can register individuals that have not or cannot get to a location or have power/phone access issues.    

 You can use the DRC Locator to find addresses and DRC details. Find info like the hours of operation, services offered, and driving directions.

Text DRC and a ZIP code to 43362.  (Example: DRC 01234). Using this option does not add you to any messaging service. It’s just like doing a search on the web (standard text rates may apply).

There are multiple types of assistance that FEMA provides to survivors following a disaster. Different survivors may be eligible for different types of assistance as each situation is unique. Individual Housing Program assistance is not a substitute for insurance and cannot compensate for all losses caused by a disaster; it is intended to meet basic needs and supplement disaster recovery efforts. FEMA helps with temporary housing, essential home repairs and other uninsured and underinsured disaster-related losses so they can jumpstart their recovery.

 Two of the programs available are Critical Needs Assistance and Transitional Sheltering Assistance. Critical Needs Assistance provides disaster survivors with immediate or critical needs because they are displaced from their primary dwelling. Immediate or critical needs are life-saving and life-sustaining items. This assistance is a one-time payment of $700 per household.

Transitional Sheltering Assistance allows for temporary, short-term accommodations through partnering hotels for eligible survivors when other housing options are not available.

Also, if you or a member of your household uses adaptive or accessibility items that were damaged by Hurricane Ian, you may be eligible for FEMA assistance for those items. For homeowners, items can include an exterior ramp, grab bars and a paved pathway to the home’s entrance from a vehicle. 

 After you have registered, and reported damage to your home, a FEMA housing inspector may contact you and schedule an appointment to visit your house or apartment to assess the damage. The inspection may be conducted at the site of the property or remotely. FEMA will contact registered survivors to let them know how the inspection will take place. For remote inspections, FEMA inspectors will contact applicants to answer questions about the type and extent of damage sustained.

 After Registering, FEMA Housing Inspection is the Next Step |

 Also, this link has resources and imagery you may want to use.

Hurricane Ian |

GIWA Boil water notice lifted …

According to Ron Bolton, executive director of the Gasparilla Island Water Authority, the boil water notice has been lifted as of Thursday, Oct. 13 We will keep you posted on our Facebook page, or on our website,

Water should be on for all of the island now. If you don’t have water by the time you read this, call GIWA at (941) 964-2423.

See our timeline regarding what happened with our island water system before, during and after Hurricane Ian on page 1.

A message from the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority …

To ensure the health and safety of our island travelers, the hurricane hang tag program will continue until Monday, Oct. 24. This time will allow agencies, businesses and residents time to recover without clogging the roads with non-essential traffic.  

GIBA is back to full staff at the tollbooth checking tags and identification.  Florida State Troopers are onsite to provide assistance as needed.

GIBA maintenance staff and engineers performed the first post-storm bridge opening on Wednesday, Oct. 12 at noon. Travelers should expect normal delays now that the bridge is opening again.

We will keep you posted with any changes. 

Fust still closed, some services available …

Lee County announced that the Johann Fust Community Library has not yet opened, nor did they give a date for when it would.

However, the telephone and virtual reference department is open for Lee County and can be reached at (239) 479-4636 or via live chat, email or text service. 

Visit for contact information.

Community Center still closed, The Island School about to open …

Lee County announced that the Boca Grande Community Center has not yet opened, nor did they give a date for when it would. There is some damage to the building from Hurricane Ian. 

The Island School will open for class on Monday, Oct.17. All students will be dropped off and picked up from the main entrance, as there is no parking at the pavilion entrance due to FEMA and other emergency agencies utilizing that lot.

All students and staff will have drinking water available to them in each classroom as there is no potable water at this time. Each classroom is equipped with a Culligan water dispenser.

If the person giving a child a ride to or from TIS does not have a hurricane hang tag to get on to the island, they will need to inform toll workers they are dropping off or picking up a child from The Island School. The Boca Grande Bridge Authority will have tolls lifted for the next few weeks and will post on their website when tolls are reinstated. 

Students in Ms. Blalock’s, Ms. Bengston’s or Ms. Hughes’s class will enter the opposite side of the building through the main entrance. This side of the school will also be the pick up location for dismissal for students in these classrooms. All safety procedures will remain the same, and parents are to drop off students at the door. 

The playground is closed until Lee County Parks and Recreation has the equipment inspected. Please DO NOT play on the playground before or after school, as the playground is not safe for children. 

The Island School does not currently have access to the Multipurpose Room due to roof damage. Students will eat lunch in their classrooms until further notice. 

Aftercare will be located in Ms. McKenzie’s room (Room 104) until further notice. Pick up for aftercare will be at Ms. McKenzie’s outside classroom door. 

Recess and PE will be held indoors until the community center is safe to reopen. Lee County Parks and Recreation determines when it is safe to reopen the community center.

The Gasparilla Inn & Club is closed until further notice …

General Manager Jon Reecher of The Gasparilla Inn & Club has advised us that there is no set date at this time when The Inn will re-open after receiving “significant, yet recoverable” damage from Hurricane Ian. He said there are multiple roofs that received wind damage and rooms that received water damage. The golf course, Reecher said, is damaged as well.

The employee rec center and gym are gone and the laundry facility is badly damaged. The Inn Marina fared much better with minimal damage.

Reecher said they are very fortunate to be inside the buildings and working, and that they are housing 10 to 12 families who have displaced Inn employees in their midst staying at The Innlet at this time. Some of their construction supervisors are staying there as well.

We will keep you posted on that one.

Boca Grande Health Clinic open for urgent care only …

The Clinic is now providing urgent care only, as well as to refill medications, triage calls and get the doctors’ messages. Their focus is on immediate urgent patient needs. They are also out helping in the community’s recovery efforts. They have not yet determined when they will be able to resume “routine” appointments. When it’s appropriate, they will reschedule those patients whose appointments were missed and then begin to set new appointments. If you have a medical emergency, dial 911.

Hudson’s Grocery not quite ready to open yet …

According to Hudson’s Grocery owner Howard Wise, it will be a bit before they are fully operational. Power is the problem, he said – until they have a secure power source, it is not in their best interests to open yet. They are getting some deliveries now, so by the time they can open, the re-arranged shelves should be full and ready for everyone.

Hudson’s employees are handing out sandwiches during the day to those who are hungry and World Central Kitchen was handing out hot food in front of the store on Wednesday.

If you’re hungry in Boca Grande these days, just keep your eyes peeled and you’ll find someone who will feed you (see page 1 for more on that).

Pink Pony set to open soon 

The Pink Pony is scheduled to open for business on October 20 if all goes according to plan. The business did not sustain damage, but the Heimann family home behind the shop did. Nikki Heimann, who is almost ready to burst with child, and her grandfather, Ken Heimann Sr., rode out the storm there. They are both OK. 

Scarpa’s to open soon as well …

While Scarpa’s Coastal did sustain some damage to the restaurant, they are cleaning and making repairs swiftly. Ashley and Glen believe they will be ready to open on Friday, Oct. 21 with a Tuesday through Saturday schedule. 

They will be serving subs for lunch – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a modified dinner menu from 5 to 9 p.m. 

“We don’t know what this season will bring and how our menus will change over the coming months, but we do know that our hearts are rooted on this island!” Ashley said. 

Babb’s Barber Shop …

Babb’s Barber Shop has a temporary location set up at All About Salon on 2440 S. McCall Rd. in Englewood  to serve their clients. 

Please call (941) 697-1220 for more information. 

Beware the scam artists …

Charlotte County has already had their share of scam artists, and when the bridge the open to regular traffic we may have the same ones on the island. 

Do not give money to ANYONE who promises debris cleanup, repairs, roof tarping, etc. Ask for a business card with their name and company phone number and do some research.

If you have insurance, make sure all jobs are cleared through the company prior to allowing them to start.

If you need assistance …

The guys at the Crowninshield are here to help.

If you need assistance with anything at all, stop by the Crowninshield Community House and see what they have there. You can find more inside, and people are there to help you with your immediate needs. 

It is a multi agency multi region operation set up to help with needs of the community.

Separate your piles or they won’t get picked …

Lee County has announced that they are slowly getting crews together to pick up the huge piles of debris that we have up and down the roads. You have to make sure that there are three

separate piles (if you have all three types of items) – one for regular household trash, one for construction debris and one for landscaping debris. 

If you do not separate your piles, there’s a good chance your piles will not be picked up.

Yep. That’s our mighty trash pile.

The Scholarship committee of the Boca Grande Woman’s Club is now accepting applications for the 2023-2024 school year

General criteria for application include:

–  Applied to a post-secondary school (i.e., college, university, trade, vocational)

– Maintain at least B average in high school

– Boca Grande connection. Can include:

     • Applicant resides in Boca Grande or

     • Applicant works/volunteer **in Boca Grande or

     • Applicant parent/grandparent/guardian resides in Boca Grande or

     • Applicant parent/grandparent/guardian works** in Boca Grande

–  Complete a FAFSA form

     • Visit online and submit a current SAR (Student Aid Report) as part of the application

**Get more details on the application criteria by accessing the BGWC Scholarship application available online at  

Applications are also available at Lemon Bay High School Career Center for LBHS students.

Deadline for applications is February 1, 2023. Interviews for all students who qualify for the program will be scheduled in early March.