Recovery teams launch from Civic Center
As of Thursday, the National Guard was pulling out of the Lee Civic Center to head south.
Hundreds of military troops had been stationed out of the facility for about a week to help with the local recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma. Owned by Lee County, it is a military host site.
“It’s a staging site after a natural disaster,” Jacob Middleton, the center’s manager, said.
He added that approximately 700 military troops had been set up at the facility.
“They are no longer on our grounds. They stayed for roughly about six days,” he said on Thursday. “They have moved on to another location. As far as I know, everybody was moving south.”
The U.S. Army and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were also on site.
“During (Hurricane) Charley in 2004, the National Guard actually came in and took over the entire property,” Middleton said. “This time, they only occupied the civic center.”
In addition to military personnel, the facility has been serving as a host shelter during the recovery efforts for linemen with Lee County Electric Cooperative and Florida Power & Light Company.
He estimated that there are about 1,500 to 2,000 workers on site.
“We host about 2,000 line trucks and tree clearing trucks,” Middleton added.
Many of the workers are not from the local area.
“We’ve got guys here from Louisiana, Alabama, Ohio and New York and a couple of crews from Canada,” he said. “Pretty much the operation that goes on here is all outside crews.”
According to Middleton, housing them may be a first for the facility.
“I believe this is the first time we’ve coordinated with FPL,” he said, pointing out that LCEC crews are typically local residents and do not require shelter.
As of Thursday, LCEC and FPL had a tentative pullout date by Tuesday or Wednesday.
“They bring in their own everything,” Middleton said of the crews.
They have several tents for housing, along with a mess hall, showers and such.
“They’re self-sufficient,” he said.
The military personnel also took care of their own.
“They slept here, brought all their vehicles,” Middleton said.
He explained that the center served as a receiving site for supplies, like water and food, which the troops disbursed to those impacted by Irma at points of distribution set up throughout the area.
Middleton called the facility and its employees’ roles very cut and dry.
“We’re here to support anybody and everybody as much as we can, so they can go out and serve the community and keep Florida strong,” he said.
As for returning the center to normal, staff were already working on it Thursday.
“We’re in the process of it now,” Middleton said.
“We’ll be back up and running – and ready for the community – next Friday,” he added.
The center will host the Fort Myers Home and Remodeling Show on Sept. 29 from noon to 5 p.m., Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Oct. 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5, with children free.
The event will feature local contractors that specialize in floors to doors, spas to pools, kitchens to bathrooms, landscaping to patios, hurricane protection to solar, water treatment to HVAC, and more.
Free seminars and demonstrations will be presented by “The Wall Wizard.”
There will also be a drawing for a three-day cruise, courtesy of Jill Venturi Cruise One.
For more information, visit: leeciviccenter.com/.
The Lee Civic Center is at 11831 Bayshore Road, Fort Myers.