Cape escapes major damage, recovery begins
Life in Cape Coral will be significantly different in the coming months as the city and its residents recover from the effects of Hurricane Irma.
“I am grateful that the storm was not as bad as it was supposed to be,” said City Councilmember Rick Williams. “We dodged a huge bullet, very lucky. I think the city handled its response beautifully. I am so proud of all of them. We just went through a drill for an event just like this with FEMA last year and everything came together as it should have.”
Williams knows LCEC is working diligently to restore power and would like to see the power back on as quickly as possible. According to the latest update at 6 a.m. Thursday, LCEC has restored power to 61 percent of all customers. Of the utility’s 82,216 Cape customers just 18,379 still are without power.
“The city escaped any major damage,” Williams said. “All we need to do now is pick up the foliage, cut the trees that need cutting and get the power back on.”
City officials indicate it could take two months to clear all the debris, but it could be longer for residents with structural damage to their property.
“We don’t have any damage assessment figures because there was no significant damage to any structures, with the exception of a tree falling onto a house. That’s deemed minor structural damage,” said city spokesperson Connie Barron. “All parks are closed until further notice. The city will remove trees and other debris in canals after the other debris is removed.”
To report trees and debris in canals to the city dial 3-1-1.
“We will pick up storm debris starting Monday,” Barron said. “We estimate it will take 30 days at least. That’s our goal.”
Debris should be placed no more than 10 feet from the curb, according to FEMA guidelines posted on the city website. Residents are asked to separate debris into six categories – electronics, large appliances, hazardous waste, vegetation, construction material, and household garbage. Vegetation does not have to be cut up or bundled prior to pick up.
A temporary debris storage and reduction site has been set up on Andalusia Boulevard at the intersection with Pine Island Road where residents can drop off debris. Access to the site is on NE 10th Avenue.
The Chiquita Lock sustained structural damage in the storm and is not operating, the city reported. The gates are open, but navigating through the lock can be difficult and dangerous depending on water levels and tides. Officials say it will remain inoperable for a minimum of 5-7 days as the scope of repairs is determined.
School closures update
Cape Coral Charter Schools are following the lead of the Lee County School District and remain closed until Sept. 25.
Waste Pro has resumed household trash collection according to its regular pickup schedule. They will remove household trash that has been placed in plastic bags at the curb if you lost trash containers in the high wind. Waste Pro will resume collection of recyclables at the curb starting Monday on its regular service schedule. To request replacement trash containers call 239-337-0800.
For more information visit the city website www.capecoral.net and click on the “post Irma information” tab on the left-hand side of the home page.
On Wednesday, Cape Coral began offering free potable water to anyone in Lee County who may need it post Irma. City residents only can go to Mariner Middle School, 425 Chiquita Blvd. N., and anyone who lives in Lee County can get water at Northwest Regional Library next door, 519 Chiquita Blvd. N. Both locations will continue to distribute free water from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily through Sunday.
The program may be extended or moved to an alternate location if necessary, based on the needs of the community. Proof of county residency is required. There is a limit of 10 gallons per vehicle per day. Bring your own containers.
“Providing free potable water to Lee County residents is the right thing to do,” said Cape Coral City Manager John Szerlag. “Fortunately, Cape Coral is in a position to do so.”
Non-perishable food and water also are being distributed to residents in need from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Living Faith Church, 939 SE 7th Court.
The city’s Emergency Operations Center transitioned from Level 1, it’s highest alert, to Level 2, partial activation, late Tuesday.
A curfew within the city limits of Cape Coral is no longer in effect. However, an 8 a.m.-7 p.m. curfew remains in effect until further notice for parts of Lee County.
City Council will return to its meeting schedule on Monday.
“We are missing one council member due to a resignation last week,” said Councilmember John Carioscia. “We were supposed to name a replacement (last) Monday, so we have to get that done ASAP and cram in a few more meetings.”
For more information on the city’s recovery and general city services information visit www.capecoral.net. This includes information on solid waste collection, electric and water issues. You also can follow the city on Facebook at CapeCoralGov, or dial 3-1-1 between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
Emergency Management related information can be found on its website at www.capecoral.net/fire or on Facebook at CapeCoralFD. Police related info can be found at www.capecops.com as well as on Facebook at CapePD.
Last Tuesday’s municipal Primary Election was postponed until Tuesday, Sept. 26. Three days of early voting have been established for Sept. 21-23 at the same time and locations as before Irma.
LeeTran resumed limited bus service to Lee County Thursday morning. The routes (8 a.m.-6 p.m.) are similar to the regular Sunday service. LeeTran’s Passport service is taking reservations for Friday trips. Fares will be collected for both services, but no fares will be charged for trips to and from designated shelters. Future service levels will be determined based on route conditions.
For those still using generators, the please follow these safety tips. The exhaust from generators contains the colorless, odorless gas carbon monoxide. Keep generators far away from the home with plenty of ventilation. Never use one indoors or in a garage.
Lee County EMS had transported 21 patients as of Wednesday with suspected CO poisoning.
Symptoms include dull headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision and loss of consciousness.
Officials caution residents to be careful when hiring contractors to work on their property. Contractors travel from out of state to a disaster area to take advantage of the scope of repair work. Ask to see the contractor’s Florida state license certification.
Survivors with losses due to Hurricane Irma can register for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Individuals can register online at www.disasterassistance.gov or through the FEMAApp.
Lee County Emergency Management
Officials recommend businesses contact their insurer regarding property damage and cleanup.
Storm debris should be placed at the curb and not in the roadway. Debris will be collected separately from normal household trash and recycling, so make separate piles. FEMA requires documentation of the volume and type of debris collected to reimburse the city or county for storm cleanup. It may require several passes for crews to collect all the debris. Put no household chemicals at the curb.
County officials are setting up multiple points of distribution where residents can go for water, food and other essential items. They also are setting up a Disaster Recovery Center where residents who have signed up for FEMA assistance can walk in and apply for state or federal assistance. For a list of the distribution locations visit www.leegov.com/public safety.
About 600 residents remained in shelters Wednesday. Evacuees at Germain Arena were transferred to Alico Arenas, Dunbar Middle School and North Fort Myers Rec Center.
To request wellness checks for family members in Cape Coral continue to call the police non-emergency number 239-574-3223.
The US. Postal Service is in active recovery mode in Southwest Florida. Mail delivery and Post Office retail services are returning to normal wherever it is safe to do so for letter carriers and customers, according to the Suncoast District office in Tampa. Services on Marco Island remain limited to a mobile retail unit, but will be restored as soon as possible.
For updated information on mail delivery and retail services visit www.usps.com. Service alerts are being continually updated at www.about.usps.com.