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Heavy rainfall takes its toll on Lee County

By Staff | Aug 31, 2017

A few days of sunshine were a welcome sight for Southwest Floridians this week following three days of torrential rain that flooded many areas, closed streets and schools, and resulted in some people having to be rescued by emergency personnel from their homes inundated by water.

The rain caused U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney to state, “Locally, we have had record rainfall that has caused flooding throughout Southwest Florida. Please follow instructions from emergency operations personnel and local government agencies. Kathleen and I wish to thank all of the first responders that are working non-stop to assist residents and keep us safe.”

On Wednesday, as things were drying out, many people were still in need of resources. The 211 Help Line got up and running for people with questions or in need of information related to the rain event.

To access the Help Line, dial 211 or 239-433-3900. United Way 211 staff will assist by providing information from the Lee County Emergency Operations Center and also will connect people to resources that may help. The 211 Help Line is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In Cape Coral, numerous major roads were closed to flooding. They included sections of Burnt Store Road, the intersection of Chiquita and Trafalgar, Chiquita from Cape Coral Parkway to Pine Island Road also had heavy flooding, as did Gleason from Skyline to Santa Barbara.

By Tuesday, many of those roads were passable and reopened.

Franchise haulers continued their normally scheduled routes, collecting where it is safe to do so. In situations where this is not feasible, the franchise hauler made attempts later in the day or that week to collect garbage.

* In North Fort Myers, residents were among the lucky ones. Even though some areas were hit by as much as 10 inches of rain, the roads were actually fairly passible, said Fire Chief David Rice, good enough so they could send some of their people elsewhere.

“For the most part there was standing water, but everything was passable. We sent our people and brush truck to Island Park to help them move people out,” Rice said.

Among the main issues in the area was the septic tanks, some of which overflowed, resulting in raw sewage seeping through the drains in areas such as Cardinal Drive, where some parts of the road were completely underwater.

Also, as in some areas, seawalls collapsed, leaving some residents on canals with a nightmare, as many insurance companies won’t cover them on policies.

Rice said he would continue to monitor the sheet flow coming in from Charlotte County.

* In Fort Myers, The Ten Mile Canal and Six Mile Cypress watersheds had more than 30 inches of rain during the storm, which is approximately 60 percent of the average annual rainfall.

Flooding was reported at the Botanica Lakes subdivision near Treeline; and Pelican Preserve subdivision had localized flooding.

Other roads affected include Rockville Road, Hill Avenue, Peterson Road, McGregor – near Linwood and Poinciana, Edgewood, Seminole, Cortez and 41 Broadway – south of Edison, areas around Broadway, Central, Victoria and Jackson have some intrusion into homes and flooded areas, and Dean Park – drainage issues.

* In Lee County, the Lee County Courthouse was closed on Monday, as was the Clerk of Courts office. All schools were also closed, with the exception of a few stray private ones. Lee County departments that fall under the Board of County Commissioners organization were open for business with regular hours.

The Lee County Emergency Operations Center was partially activated, and Lee County DOT crews worked Monday to clear catch basins and culverts on county-maintained roads. LeeTran did not report any delays from the weather, with all routes running on or close to schedule.

Numerous emergency shelters were opened. Dunbar Middle School’s shelter was opened and closed by midday Monday, while Estero’s, located in the recreation center, was still open as of Tuesday, housing more than 100 people.

There were no mandatory evacuations, nor were local states of emergency put in place.

* Among the areas worst hit were in South Fort Myers, Estero and San Carlos Park. Island Park residents were still evacuating as of Tuesday, with more than two dozen leaving on Tuesday after more than 200 evacuated on Sunday and Monday.

Water was still 12 to 18 inches deep in some areas at U.S. 41 and Island Park Road, and as much as two feet deep in other areas.

* In Sanibel, despite the roads being passable, the city closed city hall Monday so residents could deal with flooding issues in their neighborhoods. Two golf courses were also closed as a result.

With all the standing water. The big thing residents (there and throughout Southwest Florida) worried about were mosquitoes and the possibility of an outbreak.

* Relief efforts are under way for people who need it. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation has joined forces to create giving funds to help local residents enduring the effects of flooding and those displaced due to Hurricane Harvey, opening the Southwest Florida Flood Relief Fund.

The United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties, Lee County Emergency Management, and Lee County Human Services, along with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, have teamed up on the effort.

On Wednesday, local Red Cross volunteers began distributing 200 clean-up kits full of mops, buckets, bleach, trash bags and other items to those affected by the high waters in South Fort Myers.