Historic Lighthouse Still Stands Amid Hurricane Ian’s Destruction On Sanibel Island

When Hurricane Ian touched down in the U.S. on September 28, 2022, many people thought it’d be a typical storm – something to wait out and watch pass. But the Category 4 hurricane proved to be ruthless, taking lives, leaving millions without power, and destroying so many homes and businesses.

Sanibel Island, Florida was hit particularly hard by the storm, leaving a mass of destruction in its path. While many businesses and homes on the 12-mile-long island didn’t survive, there’s one thing that did: the iconic and historic iron lighthouse.

Photo: flickr/terren in Virginia

According to Sanibel Lighthouse website, the iron lighthouse was propositioned by settlers of the island back in 1833, but it wasn’t until 1884 that the lighthouse became a reality.

It was lit for the first time on August 20th, 1884 with kerosene oil. Since that time, the 98-foot lighthouse has served as a key landmark of the area, becoming a Sanibel Island icon.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Because of the lighthouse’s position right on the beach, many people feared it wouldn’t survive the harsh winds and flooding of Hurricane Ian. However, officials were pleased to announce that it’s still standing – but barely.

Lighthouse Digest Magazine shared photos of the lighthouse before and after Ian hit on Facebook. They wrote in the post:

“KEEPERS HOUSES ARE NOW GONE. THE LIGHTHOUSE IS IN DANGER OF COLLAPSE. Look closely and you will notice that the bottom of one of the support legs is gone, and erosion under the other legs puts the lighthouse in a precarious position. There is also some other minor damage to the tower.”

In a City of Sanibel news conference, everyone was required to evacuate Sanibel Island following the hurricane. Homeowners and business owners will be allowed access to the island for 12 hours on Wednesday to assess damages and gather personal belongings, but they must find their own way on and off the island – something that could be challenging since the only road to the island was washed away during the storm.

In the press conference, City Manager Dana Souza explained that the island is not currently safe. There will be plans to rebuild and make it safe again, but it will take time to get to that point. Souza said: “Sanibel remains under a 24-hour curfew, and we ask people not to go to the island. We don’t want people staying on the island. We know that you’re anxious to do that, but it’s still a dangerous situation out there.”

While things might look bleak for the former 6,000+ residents of Sanibel Island, the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce is encouraging residents to look to the lighthouse for hope.

In a Facebook post of the battered lighthouse, they wrote:

“Lighthouses are traditionally known as symbols of strength, resiliency, hope and security. While we are heartbroken by the devastation Hurricane Ian has caused our beloved islands, our business community is strong and resilient. We are resolved to rebuild. As we navigate through these uncharted waters, let the Sanibel Lighthouse be your beacon of hope and light.”

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