Sharon Faircloth owns three businesses in Fort Myers Beach and lives by the canal in the Palm Isles community across the bridge from the beach town. The tin-roofed gray house was on stilts, so she turned the bottom floor into an apartment. Flooding from Hurricane Ian has turned what once made up that space into a pile of garbage in front of her house.

A gray two-story house with a white tin roof. A palm tree with its leaves removed in front of you. And piles of drywall, lumber, and treasure that are now trashed by water damage.

Jessica Mezzaros


WUSF Public Media

Sharon Faircross’s home in Fort Myers Beach. Part of the house has been destroyed by the flood, and the garbage is piled up.

“Water has never entered this house…this house was built in 2001,” Faircloth said. “But we knew there might be water downstairs, so we put everything together to be about four or five feet high. ”

To enter the apartment from the outside, one had to pass a soaked family photo album bin.

A generator fan that dried the former living space. The room was a shell of itself, stripped down to the tacks on the walls. In the corner was a small pile of salvageable items.

On the floor in the lower left is a bin of wet photo packets. To the left, a door screen on the floor with various printed pictures drying. Around it are random pieces from inside the house.

Jessica Mezzaros


WUSF Public Media

The Faircloth family used the blown screen as a place to dry their wet family photos.

“This was the bedroom,” she said. “Fortunately, we have an incredible staff. They came right in and have already demolished all this drywall.”

Faircloth and her husband own three water recreation businesses in Fort Myers Beach. One day their lives fell apart and their house fell into disrepair.

The storm surge and winds from Hurricane Ian essentially wiped out the center of Fort Myers Beach. Restaurants, bars, shops and condominiums from the middle of the island to the Matanzas Pass Bridge have been completely destroyed or blown away, leaving muddy debris.

For now, Faircloth is focusing on repairing her home. Her company has about 30 employees, all of whom are unemployed, so she hired them to help her clean.

“The water is here,” said Faircloth, pointing to the wall overhead.

“And I don’t know how you describe what’s on the floor. Like dirt, mud. It stuck to my boots and I couldn’t walk.”

Wooden studs with no drywall, bare floors and a bright exterior front door. A big black fan is spinning.

Jessica Mezzaros


WUSF Public Media

This is the downstairs apartment in Sharon Faircloth’s house, which was cleaned and razed after Ian’s storm surge.

Then Faircloth took me to the backyard. There, her 30-foot boat owned by her next-door neighbor is tucked between her two palm trees. The bow points towards her home.

“Fortunately there was a palm tree there. I called and he said he saw a boat floating towards our house, so he put a string on it and tried to tie it to a tree and swam away, but it was almost drifting. It was done,’ she said.

We returned to our apartment and climbed a short flight of stairs to enter the house. The foyer next to the front door had a knee-high waterline. This is where she left her photo bin to ride out the storm, thinking she was safe.

“Then I think the box must have floated because the current was really, really fast when it came in,” Faircloth said.

From the foyer there is another small staircase going up to the main floor. It’s dry there, so they can stay safely.

“Downstairs is a complete disaster, but at least you can go upstairs at night and feel a little normal like OK. she said.

The water pressure is very low and the water you have has to be boiled. But at least her house stands. About business here, she is unsure.

“I didn’t have access to them at all,” she said. “Our business is on the beach, so we do jet skis, parasailing, boat rentals, and all the fun things that resorts do. We expect to be out of work for probably a year.”

Her biggest concern, she said, is paying staff. Her plan is to get a job with FEMA or be hired by a shipping company to help with the recovery effort.

“We have boats, we have captains, we have people who want to work, so I’m ready to put them to work,” she said. And we will be back once the beach is open again. ”

Faircloth hasn’t been able to get back to the beach yet because the storm destroyed all her cars. Also, due to search and rescue missions, access across the bridge is restricted.

But for those who get there, it’s a dire sight.

Highways, such as Old San Carlos Boulevard and Fifth Avenue becoming Estero Boulevard, have been scraped away to make room for emergency vehicles, and piles of sand and debris larger than trucks pile up on the sides of the streets. It is

A pile of debris stands between a parked law enforcement vehicle and lapping water.

Among the rubble, clothes, hats and shoes from destroyed tourist shops are mixed. Some still have security tags attached.

Businesses and homes are mostly burned to the ground, looking as if a bomb had exploded from within.

And all that’s left of the iconic fishing pier that jutted out from the beach into the Gulf of Mexico is a few stakes and a ramp leading up to it.

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