County officials provide update on storm relief, recovery – Pine Island Eagle

  • October 8, 2022

Lee County officials gathered Friday morning to provide an update on Hurricane Ian relief and recovery efforts.
District 2 County Commissioner and Chair Cecil Pendergrass said he and his colleagues are prioritizing getting back out into the community, especially in the hardest-hit areas and for those still in shelters.
Rescue and recovery efforts throughout the county are still ongoing.
“Our first responders are working 24/7 to find those still lost,” Pendergrass said. “Public safety is a priority here in Lee County.”
Searches continue on Fort Myers Beach, where officials said the death toll was the highest, and could be completed as soon as this weekend. Officials said once that effort is completed, residents would be able to gain access to the town.
District 5 Commissioner Mike Greenwell read a statement from Commissioner Ray Sandelli, whose district (3) encompasses Fort Myers Beach.
Sandelli’s statement said rescue efforts are nearly complete, and that in order to complete the rescues in a timely manner, the beach had to be closed.
“We hope to provide access to our residents this weekend, as we deal with the limited access points, especially in the south,” Greenwell said on Sandelli’s behalf.
Pendergrass said it was the Town of Fort Myers Beach and its emergency management team’s decision to close access in order to expedite the search and rescue process.
County Manager Roger Desjarlais said their are plans to bring a large amount of generators onto the beach to power condos and other structures to prevent further damage.
District 1 Commissioner Kevin Ruane said he’s been out to see the damage in each area of his district that includes ravaged Sanibel, Captiva, Pine Island, Boca Grande and parts of Cape Coral. He said he’s been in contact with all of the municipality leaders and providing whatever they require.
“We want to let people know we’re here to help,” Ruane said. “Most importantly — we’re going to get through this. We’re going to rebuild.”
District 4 County Commissioner Brian Hamman, who represents areas of Cape Coral, North Fort Myers and downtown Fort Myers, said today is going to be better than yesterday.
“This storm was so massive that it touched literally every single person that is a resident of Lee County. I can’t think of a single person that didn’t have some sort of impact related to this storm,” Hamman said. “All of us, the county commissioners, we see you. We see you and we hear you and we feel what you’re feeling.”
Hamman said North Fort Myers was hit hard, with many areas having to deal with multiple feet of water. He said communities are working hard to get their debris removed so they can start the rebuilding process.
In Northeast Cape Coral, Hamman said power is starting to come back to home and businesses are getting back up and running.
In downtown Fort Myers, where storm surge saw the river take over the street, store fronts are being gutted and the area will require a massive debris removal.
“I’m grateful for neighbors helping neighbors,” Hamman said. “We are rebuilding, and are a resilient community. We’re bouncing back and coming back and we’ll be better than ever.”
Desjarlais provided a myriad of updates pertaining to hurricane recovery and public safety.
Damage assessments are ongoing throughout the county, and the dollar amount of total damages is expected to be in the billions.
“This may in fact be the most costly hurricane in Florida’s history,” Desjarlais said.
As for getting the lights back on, Desjarlais said as of 9 a.m., FPL had restored 97% of its customer base, while LCEC had restored 60% as of 6 a.m. Friday.
All water systems in the county are operational, and a boil water notice is still in effect. Desjarlais said the county is ensuring all of the storm surge water that carried contaminants into the system are flushed out until that notice is lifted. He anticipated it could be lifted by next week following two clean water tests. He urged residents to report any water breaks or leaks they may see.
Of the nearly 450 traffic signals in the county, roughly 75% are operational, Desjarlais said, reminding drivers intersections become four-way stops when the signals are off.
The Department of Transportation continues to assess roadways and bridges throughout the county, and many bridges still remained closed.
There are two open shelters remaining in the county, one at the Estero Recreation Center and Hertz Arena. Desjarlais said 900 people remain at the shelters, and that the county is working to help acclimate individuals back to their homes or temporary housing.
Those looking to complete paperwork and register for assistance can do so at Lakes Park Regional Library. There are two different assistance components at the location.
Desjarlais said individuals that will be in need of temporary housing or new housing will be in the “thousands and thousands.”
He advised those in need of housing to register with FEMA at www.disasterassistance.gov.
“And Lee County is working with all of the federal and state agencies to increase the housing stock that will become available,” Desjarlais said.
The county-contracted debris removal company currently has 50 trucks on the road and are adding 50 more, Desjarlais reported.
He told residents they could put their debris on their curb is a safe space, separated by categories of horticulture, construction debris and yard waste.
There are also four self-haul debris sites throughout the county opem daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at:
– Mosquito Control, 1840 Gunnery Road, Lehigh Acres (only vegetative debris, no C&D)
– Brooks Park, 50 South Road, Fort Myers
– San Carlos Utility Site, 18078 Cypress Point Road, Fort Myers
– Shell Factory, 2805 N. Tamiami Trail, North Fort Myers
Only storm debris will be accepted and you must be prepared to unload your trucks yourself. Be prepared to show identification and be a resident of unincorporated Lee County. Accepted forms of ID include driver’s license, utility bill, rental or lease agreement, or local business license.
Desjarlais said the Coast Guard is urging residents to report any boat oil or fuel leaks, as many vessels have been displaced by major wind and water. All county boat ramps are closed, and Desjarlais discouraged any recreational boating at the moment and warned of possible debris in the water. All county parks are also closed until assessments can take place.
RSW opened this past week for limited operation and will be fully operational soon, officials said.
The United Way of Lee County is collecting donations for residents in need online at leegov.com/storm.
There is a mobile veterinary clinic staged in Fort Myers at Terry Park (3410 Palm Beach Blvd.) open every day from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. until further notice.
Lee County Domestic Animal Services’ Lost and Found is now open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for residents who may be looking for their missing pets or those who have found a pet and need to bring it into the facility.
Greenwell said Community Development will resume all permitting and inspections on Monday. Scheduling will be made available Friday after 5 p.m. The county public works building is still closed for repairs from the storm, a remote site at 2115 2nd St. in Fort Myers is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.
“Southwest Florida will come back, and be better for all,” Pendergrass said. “We are at the forefront and everyone around the nation and the world is watching Lee County. We will show them how resilient Lee County is. We may have lost buildings and lives, but we did not lose our compassion.”
– Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj
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