MATLACHA, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis was back in southwest Florida on Wednesday as the region continues to recover from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ian.
The governor held a noon news conference in the town of Matlacha in Lee County ahead of a meeting with President Joe Biden, who is visiting the hard-hit region.
A temporary bridge to hard-hit Pine Island is scheduled to open to the public later Wednesday, according to the governor.
"I tasked the Department of Transportation to figure out a solution so that we could restore access so that folks could live on the island, which is what they want to do, but also be able to get off to be able to go about their lives," DeSantis said.
The governor toured Pine Island on foot Tuesday and described downed power lines and damaged infrastructure but described the people who live there as "incredibly resilient."
Watch the news conference below:
"Now that this bridge is [set to open], they can start getting some of those power trucks because you have some areas where you have significant downed lines," he said.
He was encouraged by the work of everyone involved in the last week to help those in need.
"I think we have a chance to bounce back a lot quicker than people think," DeSantis said. "There's a great spirit on the island."
DeSantis also toured Sanibel Island for the first time on foot Wednesday and discussed the "incredible amount of debris" and significant damage to some of the older homes on the island.
"There's more debris, I think, on Sanibel than anyplace I've seen thus far," DeSantis said. "I saw more damage to the power infrastructure on Sanibel than anywhere that I've seen, and maybe even more than Fort Myers Beach. I saw concrete utility poles snapped in half."
He said a contract is now in place to implement a temporary bridge to Sanibel Island with a timeline to have it back open by the end of October.
Biden will get an aerial tour of the damage and meet with residents, small business owners, DeSantis and other local officials during his visit to southwest Florida.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Tuesday night that 72 storm-related deaths have now been confirmed by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, including one from Martin County.