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Punishing storm leaves Fort Myers Beach flooded

By Staff | Jan 16, 2016

Just six days removed from a storm that caused high winds and damage, Fort Myers Beach was socked and soaked again Friday morning by torrential rains that left the island mostly under water.

In the duration of two hours, 2.6 inches of rain fell in concert with wind gusts reaching 60 mph. Many residents lost power, some for as long as seven hours.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Lanark Avenue resident Shawn Jensen as he rode his bike through about 4 inches of standing water. Floating by were trash cans, much like boats on a river.

On nearby Dakota Street, kids enjoyed the water wonderland on rafts and boogie boards.

Neither street was safely passable by car, nor were many others. In some cases, standing water still remained from the Jan. 9 storm before the next round arrived.

“This is the third time in less than a year I’ve had to pump water out of my house,” said a Dakota Street resident as his generator hummed. “I even built a berm to keep the water away, but now it’s coming from down the street. The town was supposed to fix the problem down there but never did. All they care about is Times Square, not the people in the neighborhoods.”

The island’s southern half, where installation of an ongoing stormwater system has yet to reach, took the brunt of the flooding.

In front of the Wyndham Garden Hotel, a car sank nearly half its length in a low area. At the Pointe South condos, Patty Weber found herself shin deep in water as she and her dog, Wilson, did some frolicking.

“I’ve never seen it this bad before in January,” said the longtime condo owner. “The ocean waves are less than 2 feet from our seawall.”

At her rental unit in the 6000 block of Estero Boulevard, visitor Arlene Keeling watched the water rush below from the balcony of her raised building.

“I only rent places that are on stilts when I’m near the ocean,” said the Virginia resident. “I’ve been in many nor’easters up on Long Beach Island (New Jersey) so I’ve learned my lesson.”

But have local residents learned their lesson? Mayor Anita Cereceda wonders if they will finally embrace her desire to establish a stormwater utility fee to allow the installation project, which is $2 million in debt, to continue.

“First and foremost I hope and pray everyone is safe and isn’t suffering much in property damage,” she said by phone Friday afternoon from Orlando. “That said, this has happened before and will happen again. The island is at constant risk.”