FORT MYERS, Fla. — The City of Fort Myers' process of clearing out the many boats Hurricane Ian scattered across downtown Fort Myers involves insurance negotiations.
When walking near the Legacy Harbour Marina, next to Joe's Crab Shack on West First Street, you can see how the city has the boats fenced off.
According to city officials, it will be like that for a while.
“My insurance company is going to pay me off, and then it becomes their issue,” said boat owner Lori DeKeyser.
That gives you an idea of the boat insurance issues Lori DeKeyser and her husband are dealing with after Ian.
They are snowbirds, and their boat was one of many Ian tossed onto land at the marina. She said the local businesses are really frustrated with the boats still being scattered.
“We have been here salvaging what we can off the boats. Our insurance adjusters have been here,” DeKeyser said. "The boaters are low on the list. Basically, they have more important things with loss of life and loss of homes.”
She added that this is a big operation and it's going to be a long process. The city of Fort Myers agreed.
A week ago, when speaking with Mayor Kevin Anderson, he said the boats are a challenge the city has never faced before, Thursday Bello-Matthews echoed that statement. She said the riverfront is a very unique situation.
"We have a lot of private property that has washed up over public property," said Liz Bello-Matthews, the city's spokeswoman.
This is why the city can't simply remove the boats without the owners' permission. Bello-Matthews said when it comes to the process of the boat removal, it's at the stage of everyone trying to file their insurance claims.
"Once that is finalized, then they can have a third party either remove the boat for them or even contact the fish and wildlife," Bello-Matthews said.
The city said it would be a while until the area is cleared and rebuilt, but the DeKeysers, they aren't giving up.
"We’re downtowners. We’ll be back in some shape or form," DeKeyser laughed.
The city is urging boaters to file their insurance claims as soon as possible. If a boater does not have insurance, they should file through FEMA. If a boater is limited on resources regarding removal, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission created a Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline at 850-488-5600, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Callers should be prepared to provide the vessel's registration number, current location, and detailed description.