Storm-battered Florida businesses face arduous rebuilding

Storm-battered Florida businesses face arduous rebuilding


Walt Disney World and other tourist attractions in central Florida appeared to have avoided severe damage from Hurricane Ian, but many businesses on the state's southwestern coast were hammered and face a long rebuilding process.

In Fort Myers, video posted on social media showed the Times Square, a colorful area of shops and restaurants, leveled by the storm. Sanibel, a barrier island dotted with resorts and connected to Fort Myers by a causeway, was devastated.

Carol Dovey, president of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, paused in the middle of an interview to watch live television, and was relieved to see the Westin Cape Coral Resort along the marina in Fort Myers still standing.

“But now everything that they are showing on CNN is flattened. I don’t see anything but rubble,” she gasped. “We have a lot of rebuilding to do, and it’s not done in a month. This sometimes takes years.”

Ian came ashore in southwest Florida as a Category 4 hurricane accompanied by storm surges that left thousands trapped by flooding and millions without power. As it moved inland and weakened — eventually to a tropical storm — high winds and heavy rain continued, but theme parks and other tourism magnets in central Florida appeared to have dodged crippling harm.

In the Orlando area, Walt Disney World and other attractions that had closed ahead of the storm remained shuttered, and it was unclear when they would reopen.

Disney posted a message on Twitter, promising to help its employees and the community “get through this together.”

“As we keep safety in mind, our theme parks and other operating areas remain closed (Thursday) while crews assess the impact of the storm and clear debris,” Disney said.

Damage assessments had barely begun on Thursday, as the storm moved toward the...

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