Beach Preps for Hurricane Irma
What a difference a few days makes…at least in hurricane predictions. As of noon Thursday, the 5-day forecast puts the most likely path of Irma on the east coast of Florida, but forecasters warn that Floridians should not focus solely on the center of the predicted path, but should pay attention to the cone of uncertainty. The average hurricane tracking errors at day 4 and 5 are around 175-225 miles. At the Naples/Miami latitude, the state of Florida is just 110 miles wide. Irma’s Tropical Storm force winds are 350 miles wide as of Thursday morning. Regardless of the specific track Irma takes as it nears Florida, this storm bears close watching and preparation. It will not take a direct hit for SWFL to see significant damage.
The Lee County Emergency Operations Center has been activated. The earliest arrival of Tropical Storm force winds is expected on Saturday. The EOC expects to provide more information on local impacts including any evacuations and sheltering news later Thursday and Friday. Remember that not all shelters open for every storm. No shelters are open as of Thursday noon, September 7, 2017.
While the Special Needs Registration is now closed as we are within the 5-day cone, any resident with special medical needs that is not currently registered will be able to go to a general shelter when and if they open. Once there, any special needs resident will be triaged and if needed, transported to other facilities that can better meet their needs.
Lee County residents and visitors are urged to download the LeeAlert mobile phone app for the most up to date information on evacuations, shelters and weather information. To ensure you receive emergency alerts from Lee County Emergency Operations, also download the CodeRed app. Links to both can be found at www.leeeoc.com.
The following government offices will be closed Thursday and Friday: Lee BoCC Departments, Lee Clerk of Courts, 20th Circuit Court, Lee Tax Collector, Lee Property Appraiser and Lee Supervisor of Elections.
Lee County Schools are closed Thursday and Friday.
Trash, yard waste and recycling collections are one day later than usual this week due to Labor Day. Lee County Solid Waste Division has announced that they will suspend all regularly scheduled garbage, yard waste, bulky waste and recycling collections after Friday, September 8, 2017.
Fort Myers Beach – State of Emergency
Early Wednesday morning, the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach, joined Lee County and the State of Florida in declaring a State of Emergency. A voluntary evacuation is in effect. Town Manager Roger Hernstadt has been designated as the Town official in charge of implementing emergency and disaster ordinances.
Closed as of Wednesday are Bay Oaks Recreation Center and Community Pool, Mound House and Newton Park. The Matanzas Harbor Mooring Field is under a voluntary evacuation. The declaration led to an order that all construction sites prepare for the storm by noon Friday. Beach vendors must remove all equipment by Friday noon also.
If a Hurricane Watch is issued, all on-street parking will be prohibited within Fort Myers Beach.
All September meetings of Town advisory committees have been canceled or postponed until further notice.
Sand and sandbags have been intermittently available as the supply at Town Hall, off Tropical Shores Way, was exhausted on Wednesday and town officials did not expect to receive more. As of Thursday morning, developer Joe Orlandini continued to provide sand to the public at 1510 Estero Blvd. He expected to provide sand through Friday. A list of Lee County sites with sand is available on the Town’s website (fmbgov.com) under the Emergency Declaration link. People are asked to bring their own shovels and bags. Trash bags and tarps can be used.
Each day at 2:30pm, Fort Myers Beach Mayor Dennis Boback will issue an update following the 2:00pm Lee County briefing.
If a mandatory evacuation is ordered, all routine government services will stop on Friday, September 8, 2017 at 4:30pm. Residents should expect services to be significantly reduced following the storm. Anyone who chooses not to evacuate should realize that there would be no police, no fire, no EMS and no Town services available. Once the storm has passed, public safety officials will respond to calls as possible.
The council meeting on Thursday, September 7, 2017 at 6:30pm will be held as scheduled. It includes the first Public Budget Hearing along with a hearing to establish the tax rate, both of which will have a second Budget Hearing scheduled for September 21st at 6:30pm. Council also has the Straw Ordinance and the Newsrack Ordinance on the agenda. The council has received requests to postpone the final Newsrack Ordinance hearing until September 21st. Town staff has indicated that an attempt will be made to make the meeting short in light of weather concerns.
FMB Re-Entry Passes
Town residents, home and business owners can still pick up a Town Re-Entry pass at Town Hall in person, but expect a line. If you have a purple resident pass, it is valid for 2017. Applications are available online at fmbgov.com. Applicants must complete an application and provide a photo ID and proof of residency. The owner, tenant or business should have two of the following: Driver’s License, Vehicle Registration, Voter Registration, Utility Bill, Business Tax Bill, Company Letter, Occupational License or Lease. Town Hall, 2525 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, is open 8:30am-4:30pm. The Town will be issuing re-entry passes all day Thursday and until 10am Friday. Town Hall is expected to close at noon Friday to prepare the building for the storm.
During the Storm
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office is asking for cooperation from local residents to keep our community safe. Beth Schell of the LCSO said that area bridges will no longer be safe to cross and will be shut down when sustained winds reach 30-40mph. At that point, first responders will report to their assigned shelters/staging areas and will no longer respond to calls when winds reach 30-40mph. This applies to law enforcement, fire rescue and paramedics/ambulances everywhere in Lee County.
During a storm, phone lines may go down and remain down for several days. The LCSO asks that neighbors be ready to help each other. Cell phones may work but the towers will be overloaded, so arrange for a single family member that you will contact to report your status. Or plan to use an app to contact someone.
The LCSO asks that all residents carry identification with your home address with you at all times during and after the storm. They also remind drivers that once the rains start, do not drive on flooded roads.
All Town Advisory Committee meetings for September have been cancelled or postponed.The Fort Myers Beach Chamber Luncheon on Sept 14th has been cancelled.
After the Storm
Once it is safe for public safety teams to be outside, an initial assessment of the island by Fire Chief Matthew Love, Town Manager Roger Hernstadt and Mayor Boback will take place to determine safe re-entry. Once completed, only Island residents and business owners will be able to return to inspect their property. Anyone wishing to re-enter the town MUST have a Town-issued Re-Entry Pass. See FMB Re-Entry Passes above.
Boil Water Notice
If, during or after a storm, the water system loses power and pressure, a precautionary boil water notice will be issued. Under a boil water notice, water used for consumption can be disinfected by any one of the following methods: 1) Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute; 2) Use unscented bleach – put 8 drops (1/8 teaspoon) into a gallon of tap water, shake and let stand of 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use 16 drops (1/4 teaspoon) and let stand for 30 minutes. There should be a slight chlorine odor; 3) use water purification tablets or iodine and follow instructions. Bottled water for consumption is also an option.
Consumption includes teeth brushing, washing foods and making ice. Tap water may be used for bathing, shaving and washing. Contact FMB Water at 239-274-2200 for more information
To track the restoration of any power outage download the FPL app or visit fpl.com.