Hurricane Information

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  • SanCapMod

    Post Hurricane Ian Updates from the City of Sanibel’s 6:30 PM Facebook Live
    September 30th, 2022 by Ava St. Laurent

    Following the destruction of Hurricane Ian, the City of Sanibel has held multiple Facebook Live events, including today’s, to give citizens updates.

    UPDATES
    City Manager Dana Souza opened tonight’s meeting with a myriad of FACTUAL updates for citizens from the City of Sanibel covering everything from search and rescue efforts, the status of structures on the island, and plans moving forward.

    To begin, Souza stated he and all other city council members (i.e. Mayor Holly Smith, the Chief of Police William Dalton, and more) touched down on the island via boat together. When they arrived, they noted the storm surge from Hurricane Ian was between 8-15 feet across the island, differing in areas. There is STILL water on the island. There is extensive damage to homes and resort areas with whole houses uprooted and moved to the middle of the road. There is little to no vegetation on the island with trees and bushes damaged. Thus far, they have searched and cleaned (partially) through Periwinkle and are aiming to clear East Gulf Road tomorrow as it is the only area which will lead them to the East and West Ends. Although utility poles are partially blocking their path on this road, they can tell there was lower storm surge in these areas.

    Authorities are continuing all search and rescue efforts. Today, 80+ individuals were reached and taken off the island. At this time, they have also reported 4 fatalities - all unidentified. Approximately 80 individuals are a part of urban search and rescue teams and have begun visiting structures on the island. All visited structures are marked with an ‘X’ on the door to show it has been searched and to track progress. During search and rescue efforts, absolutely NO power lines are energized to ensure the safety of individuals still left on the island and public work crew members. Once this is completed, Souza expects the structural inspection team to (hopefully) visit the island for work on Monday, October 3rd.

    Souza then called his colleague over to assist in showing a series of videos of council members and volunteers inspecting the island, the damage, and the remaining water earlier in the day. They also highlighted that aerial shots of the island can be seen on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); individuals are free to view the island at large, their homes, or any part of the world by searching with specific locations. They emphasized that, largely, structures made of concrete and metal remained intact where structures made of wood and other building materials did not.

    Souza and his colleague also reported that although there is VERY poor cell service on the island, AT&T is working to set up a temporary tower to help search and rescue efforts as well as to be used to inform first responders. As reported in an earlier press release by the city, they have established a well-being check online at MySanibel.com for all individuals. Souza encourages those submitting well-being checks to be as generous as possible in terms of sharing information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and more. The city’s teams will first be responding to well-being checks that pertain to searching residences on the island where they suspect individuals are on the property.

    Then, Chief of Police William Dalton stepped to the podium. Chief Dalton stated that a 24 hour curfew is still in effect as well as 24 hour police activity on the island. He also shared reports of backpack-strapped teens in sand dunes being chased from multiple Sanibel properties and beseeched they do not cause unnecessary mischief at this time. Chief Dalton shared that the city has formed a task force to patrol the island.

    Chief Dalton also shared that the city has requested assistance from the National Guard. Incoming reports of Hurricane Ian put the storm above past Hurricanes Charley and Katrina. He also spoke of waiting for a barge of supplies, including necessary equipment and bottled water, in larger quantities to be shipped in by FEMA contractors.

    While inspection of the Sanibel Causeway is underway, Chief Dalton stated a team is working on establishing short and long term ferry services.

    MESSAGE FROM THE MAYOR
    After the factual debrief from Souza and Chief Dalton, Sanibel Mayor Holly Smith shared her personal feelings on the situations involving Sanibel after Hurricane Ian.

    Mayor Smith not only expressed her sorrow and despair for what happened but also her strength and hope for recovery in her recap of today’s events. She expressed her joy when she saw 60 citizens being rescued from the island by boat before she even touched the island herself.

    While working on the island, Mayor Smith noticed the destruction. “The island is not habitable now,” she stated. “The island will not be habitable for a while.”

    She assured she understands the devastation that Hurricane Ian has caused and encourages patience for what is, undoubtedly, a long-term effort in recovery. She also expressed her hope for the structural inspection team to report the island for work on Monday, October 3rd.

    Mayor Smith addressed Chief Dalton’s news of a barge bearing supplies coming to the island and stated that this, although necessary, is slow moving. In previous hurricane recovery periods like that after Hurricane Charley, power and water were restored with a 10-day turnaround largely due to trucks being able to bring resources over the Sanibel Causeway. Presently, this will not be the case as the Causeway has collapsed into the water during the storm; a barge will be much slower to arrive. It is important to note that there is NO drinkable water on the island other than bottled water. The barge will be bringing essential supplies in terms of bottled water. This reason is one of many which shows it is imperative that all individuals remaining on the island are evacuated.

    In closing, Mayor Smith stated that briefings similar to this Facebook Live will be handled daily for the time being. She very sternly emphasized once again that “The island IS CLOSED. We will not allow people to get on the island. . . DON’T get on a boat. DON'T come to the island.”

    Q&A SESSION
    Following Mayor Smith’s message to the community, Souza served as a mediator between his colleagues and the community in a Question & Answer (Q&A) session.

    One citizen asked how they should look to acquire their mail. To this, Souza said they will have to check with officials in the U.S. Postal Service to see how and where mail is being held and how they can acquire it.

    Another citizen asked when they might be able to return to their homes on Sanibel to collect their belongings. Souza theorized that, if and when this becomes possible, they would look to do this in quadrants. There are NO specific plans or assurances of this yet.

    A third citizen expressed despair at not being able to find long-term housing for himself and his wife. To this, Souza promised assistance in providing resources and looking into further resources for others in similar positions.

    Other questions were asked regarding earlier information and were clarified accordingly.

    The City of Sanibel is to release their official recap of the Facebook Live tomorrow morning, October 1st.

    You can watch the City of Sanibel's Facebook Live here:https://www.facebook.com/100068081412480/videos/832321477790923

  • SanCapMod

    Post Hurricane Ian Updates from the City of Sanibel’s 6:30 PM Facebook Live
    October 1st, 2022 by Ava St. Laurent

    This evening at 6:30 PM, the City of Sanibel held a Facebook Livestream to update everyone on the Post-Hurricane Ian situation.

    As we begin the new month, City Manager Dana Souza informed everyone that the City Council will be holding their final Budget Meeting for 2023 before moving into their 2023 Fiscal Year. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 3rd at 5:01 PM.

    UPDATES
    Regarding the island of Sanibel, Souza was adamant about the 24 hour curfew placed since they are still executing search and rescue efforts at this time. He happily reported that, today, they were able to access the East End of the island after clearing East Gulf Road. All main roads have been cleared, and 80% of ALL roads have been cleared. There is still a need for larger equipment to get the debris totally cleared.

    Souza also announced that the barge carrying supplies, including bottled water, is on its way to Sanibel and set to arrive at an unreported time tonight. Once equipment from the barge is on the island, teams can begin fixing damaged polls and putting up new polls. In addition, the National Guard will be on their way; the City Council is awaiting information on their deployment and arrival.

    Souza confirmed that the structural inspection team will arrive on the island on Monday, October 3rd, following yesterday’s discussion. The team will begin inspecting structures towards the East End of the island. Souza noted that the city’s I.T. Department has been working sections into smaller subsections to better inspect eveyrhting due to the level of damage.

    Souza went on to highlight reports from individuals on the island and the police. Police found minor issues of theft and have escorted several individuals off the island. They are continuing to evacuate the island, and have reported that approximately 100 individuals were evacuated TODAY. Presently, the fatality count remains at four.

    The City Manager and other council members are working on a plan to return residents to the island in a structured format so that they may open their homes to prevent mold and get their belongings. Transportation to the island will happen via boat while ground transportation still needs to be established to bring individuals around the island safely. There are no promises as to what time or date this can be done. However, all individuals’ visit to the island will be time specific. Everyone in a specific area will be given a specific date to visit the island together. While on the island, individuals will be escorted by police and other authorities to ensure their safety. Once completed, they will leave the island together with the police and their belongings.

    Souza encouraged individuals to email volunteer@mysanibel.com. He went on to say that individuals who choose to volunteer will receive an email when work is available for them. If an individual is volunteering to be a part of the structural integrity team, they will be contacted immediately.

    MESSAGE FROM THE MAYOR
    Mayor Smith stepped to the podium to assure everyone that everything they are addressing with residents also applies to business owners. She understands that small, medium, and large businesses greatly contribute to the island, and this is not being overlooked.

    Mayor Smith reminded that “highs and lows are to be expected because of the enormity of what (they) are doing.” She thanked everyone for their patience, once again, before opening the room to questions.

    Q&A SESSION
    Souza and Mayor Smith worked together to answer questions from the community.

    One concerned individual recognized the enormity of the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian and asked if there was a timeline for the Causeway’s repair. To this, Mayor Smith said, “That’s a difficult question to answer. There are several time estimates, but nothing is certain at the moment.”

    Another asked about repairs to private roads. Souza answered that FEMA contractors will help clear debris on private roads as they push through the island just as they would all others. However, if there is major reconstruction that needs to be done for these private roads, this is not a city expense.

    When asked about insurance adjusters inspecting the damage, Souza replied this will be looked into and further detailed once residents are allowed to go through their homes. First, they want to make sure they have a safe and orderly way of visiting the island, as mentioned earlier; this includes assuring the safety of insurance representatives visiting the island with them. Souza also mentioned he will work with individuals who have contracts with seasonal home owners so they can check the appropriate homes on their behalf.

    Souza and Mayor Smith stressed they cannot give an estimate for when people can get back to the island multiple times throughout tonight’s Q&A session.

    Before the Facebook Live ended, Souza thanked everyone and gave a special thanks to the administrative team for keeping everything up and running during such a high-stress time.

    You can watch the City of Sanibel's Facebook Live here: https://www.facebook.com/100068081412480/videos/400688018936848

  • SanCapMod

    Post Hurricane Ian Updates from the City of Sanibel’s 6:30 PM Facebook Live
    October 2nd, 2022 by Ava St. Laurent

    Once again, the City of Sanibel held a Facebook Livestream to update everyone on the Post-Hurricane Ian situation this evening.

    Souza reminded everyone of tomorrow’s City Council meeting regarding the final Budget Meeting for 2023 before moving into their 2023 Fiscal Year.

    UPDATES
    Souza reminded everyone that the 24 hour curfew is still in effect. He stated that fire and police personnel were on the island all day with search and rescue team members. The Fire Department is switching to medical services tomorrow, while the police are moving to law enforcement roles. Meanwhile, the police continue to find minor issues of theft across the island. Urban search and rescue will continue, as well. Souza also reported the National Guard is in the area and set to reach the island on Tuesday, October 4th.

    The city is continuing to shuttle individuals off the island. Numbers of individuals saved are reported to be over 400 with 250 individuals off the island yesterday and 150 off the island today. We continue to have more good than bad news with no reports of injury or additional fatalities.

    Regarding clean up, roads are accessible for authority vehicles to get through. ALL main rolls are open along with a reported 70% of side roads. The search and rescue team is helping to cut debris so it can be more easily cleared.

    Barges are moved into the area but have not yet arrived. The launch areas the city will use for the barges were tested today.

    Regarding usable water, two wells are running and will be operational as of tomorrow to provide water to the island. There are set to be 15 wells total. Today, a team of firefighters were able to use the water.

    The structural safety inspection team will be on the island to begin checks tomorrow. More information will be gathered to understand what types of checks will be done and the software programs used for reporting.

    Yesterday, the city spoke about plans being developed for individuals to return to their island in a structured format so they may open their homes and gather belongings. In the plan they are working on, they are looking to shuttle groups over as well as individuals being able to hire someone to bring them over on their own. Souza assured community members that “We are listening to you. We want you to understand that,” and was applauded for his efforts. “This is a complex situation that none of us have been through before. . . We also want to develop a plan that gets resident and business owners to the island sooner rather than later.”

    “We understand how important our businesses are to our community. . . We want to allow business owners back on the island to remove merchandise, examine their property, and take stock of what their tasks at hand are. Businesses will be included in that plan,” Souza said. “The city has ordered some business owners whose property was damaged and opened for free access to go to the island. . . this is for businesses that sell alcohol and pharmaceuticals that they sell . . There’s been some concern that we were favoring some businesses over the other - that’s not the case. Once the police made their assessment, we knew we had to get them out.” The city council is set to discuss when business owners will be allowed back on the island in their meeting tomorrow.

    MESSAGE FROM THE MAYOR
    At this time, Mayor Smith swapped with Souza to take the podium to approach a new topic about the island - school.

    “I know there are a lot of parents out there listening. I was with Superintendent Christopher Bernier and Principal Jamie Reid. . . They were choppered in to do an assessment of the school. . . They said, ‘We want to make sure that children can learn together; wherever they are learning, they are learning together.’” She stressed that this is very important because they have not had information regarding the school before today.

    Mayor Smith was also proud to announce, “Many other agencies the City of Sanibel is working with have not seen ever the coordinated effort that has taken place on a barrier island that has no access . . . really know that, in these four days, the tremendous amount of work that has been done in our community (they made sure they noticed it). They haven’t seen it anywhere else.”

    Q&A SESSION
    Souza led the Question & Answer session tonight.

    The first individual to be called upon did not have a question but identified himself as Richard from Bank of the Islands and announced the bank will be open at the Edison National Bank branch to allow customers to come in and cash checks and work with individuals to get what they need. “We are a community bank that’s here to help you,” he said to great applause.

    Another individual asked, “Are Sanibel and Captiva in lock step and following the same protocol for residents being allowed to visit?” Souza answered, “Most Captiva residents need to go through Sanibel, so there is no place to land unless someone is taking a personal craft.” Souza does not know what the county has done on their side of the road. Another individual chimed in that the fire Chief of Captiva invited people to safely come back if they could, and that their roads are cleared. Souza promised to be in contact with them tomorrow to see what is going on.

    A third asked, “Is there any idea how many (individuals) are yet to be evacuated from the island?” Souza answered that they have been going property by property to assess everyone and urge them off the island. “There may be 20 or so more residences (potentially) with people on the island. There could be more, we have to see.”

    Souza spoke to another fourth individual who asked about contractors visiting residences on behalf of the property owners. Souza said, “If there is a property owner with a contractor that existed before the storm, that is the best contract to provide to us. . . . . . otherwise, they should have a letter from the property owner that should be notarized so we know there is a relationship.”

    After, another individual asked what would happen if a property was deemed unsafe? Would they still be allowed to see it? Souza was hesitant with his reply in that they would have to condemn the building and see about what happens next. “It would be posted that they do not enter.”

    Souza ended the conversation to answer further questions offline.

    You can watch the City of Sanibel's Facebook Live here: https://www.facebook.com/100068081412480/videos/1215196659039110

  • SanCapMod

    Post Hurricane Ian Updates from the City of Sanibel’s Facebook Live
    October 3rd, 2022 by Ava St. Laurent

    John Henshaw opened the meeting to a prayer asking for strength during the post-hurricane recovery period. The room then said the pledge of allegiance.

    Mayor Smith thanked everyone in the room for their dedication and hard work during this high-stress time. She said, “We are going to be stronger than Ian. It is going to take all of us to do so.”

    CITY BUDGET DETAILS
    This meeting is rescheduled from a date in September, which could not be held due to the storm.

    At this time, the city’s initial budget of $8M+ has not changed much. However, the cost of Ian necessitated by Ian is indeterminable (for now). They are unsure how this will affect the city’s budget.

    There will absolutely be an amendment to this once a budget for repairs is determined. It was made very clear that a budget MUST be determined tonight in order to continue operating.

    The mayor called for votes on the final budget, going forward with item 4b, which is the recommendation from the Planning Commission Capital Improvement Project. They do review capital improvement lists within the budget so the council may review this in conjunction with the Sanibel plan.

    The Sanibel budget includes disaster reserves, which are expected to be re-appropriated into operating funds due to the circumstances. The council moved to vote yes to this.

    The council continued to vote yes on motions 4b-5. All individuals in the room held a copy of the meeting’s agenda and were invited to express their opinions.

    HURRICANE IAN UPDATES
    Today is Day 5 Post-Hurricane Ian.

    City Manager Souza invited multiple people to give their accounts of the day’s work on the island.

    The Deputy Public Works Director was the first invited to speak.

    The Public Works Crews continue to open roadways and clear debris. Very shortly, debris will be able to be hauled by cubic yard to do another couple of pushes through the island once larger equipment can get to the island. The Public Works department is looking to get special contractors on the island to get a second opinion on this project to ensure things run smoothly.

    Souza is working very closely with Lee County and operations center to make sure they have a unified front in their approach to the island and barges.

    General Manager of the Island Water Association Diana Wilson was invited to speak.

    She said they were able to get water to firefighters and first responders as well as the water treatment plant past Periwinkle.

    Two wells are now producing 900 gallons of water per minute to fill tanks. This is more than what is needed and being added to the stored water capacity.

    Filling tanks allows for this water to later be used for pressurized lines and flushing out water and keeping it high quality. This means there is water service for some basic sanitation.

    A representative from LCEC was invited to speak.

    Her team worked with staff on the island to make sure that phishing through is safe. No lines are energized.
    She responded that there is not a lot of damage at the substation on the island.

    However, a lot of broken poles on the island makes it look like there is a need for a full rebuild on the island.
    Around the school and rec center may be one of the first places which sees a return of power so that they can use this as a meeting/staging center.

    Lee County Commissioner Kevin Wayne was invited to speak.

    The DOT District Secretary and City Manager talked about the teams working on the inspection of the Sanibel Causeway.

    Repairs are being planned although it is slow moving. They need to assess every detail for the best plan of action.
    The DOT will pay for the bridge with whatever plan they come up with.

    FEMA being present for this is key to 100% financial stability in these efforts.

    All partners are in to provide support to do inspections on the bridge. Since 3:30 PM, the team has been looking at four different scenarios to rebuild the bridge. The Federal, State, and local agencies involved in this planning will have a completed plan by this Saturday, October 8th. to rebuild the bridge.

    Alternatives for transportation are being drafted as we speak. As soon as the severity of the Causeway and plans for this are in place, they will consider alternative methods of transportation with more depth.

    He is also concerned about the amount of gas and propane necessary to continue work on the island and is working to set this up.

    He cautioned the waterways on the way back from the island are very dangerous. The situation of entering the island is more treacherous than people think.

    Another government individual was invited to speak.

    A group is working to have the small business association an office space so they can get back on the island.
    They work with the Department of Economic Opportunity as well as the banks on the island.

    There is a survey that is out there. He urged people to take and return the surveys so they can continue this process as quickly as possible.

    Fire Chief William Briscoe reported on search and rescue.

    As they were doing this today, they also did damage assessment for each property and structure they visited (including condominiums).

    Souza is predicting about 80% of the structures will be marked with an ‘X,’ deeming them inhabitable. The quantity of wildlife running through the island was not there before and in places they should not be.

    Sancap Road is not exactly passable at this moment. Driving it is nearly impossible unless you have a truck.

    Nearly 100% of search and rescue and damage assessment is done. The secondary searches will begin tomorrow.

    He elaborated on some numbers:

    Over 1000 individuals have now been rescued from the island with 4 deaths, 3 fires, 3 homes burned to the ground, 1 fire engine on the island, and only 77 gallons of water available.

    The only water that is on the island is going to the island’s fire fighting station.

    The roads are still not clear ENOUGH to reach anything.

    A concerned community member brought up the situation in Captive (i.e. it being habitable0. The Council answered that, after further assessment, “Captiva is a cakewalk compared to what you guys have.”

    Sanibel post master is setting up at 6 Cypress. Please, go there for your mail. If an individual is looking to change their mailing address, this should be done online or in person at 6 Cypress.

    TO THIS PLAN, SOUZA SAID THERE MAY BE ADJUSTMENTS: “We anticipate that residents will be able to return to their properties by private watercraft beginning Wednesday, October 5th between the hours of 7 AM and 7 PM. Watercraft cannot land at the city’s boat ramp as it is being used for emergency purposes. As it stands now, the city cannot provide boat services to the island or shuttle services on the island.”

    THE COMPLETE STRUCTURE HOW INDIVIDUALS CAN GET TO THE ISLAND WILL BE POSTED ON THE WEBSITE. CONDITIONAL ITEMS TO THIS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:

    A new curfew will be in effect beginning October 5th from 7 PM - 7 AM. Police and law enforcement members of the National Guard will halt and question anyone who is out or on the island during these times.

    Checkpoints include the following with law enforcement questioning at each area:

    The beginning of each neighborhood. You may only enter a specific neighborhood IF you have an address there.

    IDENTIFICATION NEEDED FOR RE-ENTRY:

    Individuals looking to get on the island MUST have a hurricane re-entry pass OR a Florida State driver’s license presenting a SANIBEL ADDRESS.

    Owners of residential properties who do NOT have a hurricane re-entry pass may come to the Grand Plaza Hotel, where the Facebook Live meeting is taking place, to get a pass. They must present a Florida ID.

    People renting property on the island will need to bring a rental agreement or utility bill along with their government issued ID to get on the island.

    Business Owners MUST have a hurricane re-entry pass. If they do not have one, they too can get one at the hotel by showing their IDs and 2021 or 2022 tax forms.

    Contractors lookin must have a commercial hurricane re-entry path OR must be accompanied by a business owner WITH a re-entry pass.

    The private vessels used to get to the island may enter the canals and will be checked on their way in. This is at their own risk.

    Individuals accessing the island also do so at their own risk.

    The structural integrity team has taken information as to which structures are habitable/inhabitable and will be posting it online. When they do this, it is up to the individual to make an informed decision to visit/not visit the island AT THEIR OWN RISK.

    A SAFE ENVIRONMENT IS NOT GUARANTEED!!

    Individuals CANNOT bring in generators in order to reduce fire hazards.

    Council Member Richard Johnson PLEADED with people to take a look at the data that will be made available to them before Wednesday morning at 7 AM and to HAVE A PLAN before coming to the island.

    Individuals are NOT ALLOWED to use cars while they are on the island, even if they have one and they are running. The roads are not completely drivable, and it’s dangerous to do so.

    60 Troops from the National Guard were airdropped on the island today and set up their base camp at the Sanibel school.

    No PRIVATE barges are allowed on the island at this time unless it is approved by City Manager Souza.

    There is limited ability for first responders to get to injured people on the island. Statistically, more people get hurt AFTER a disaster rather than before.

    There is no cellular communication on the island.

    Former Head of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) John Henshaw coached community members on wearing the correct shoes, clothing, gloves, goggles/eye safety wear, and walking sticks for the type of environment (heat, debris, nails, etc.). He says if people are not able to do this or do not feel comfortable, then they should not go to the island. “If anyone is injured, (it’s possible that) nobody is going to be there to help you.”

    The Mayor suggested that IF anyone is going to visit the island, then they should not go alone.

    If an individual is not in perfect health, then they should not go.

    City Council Member Scott Crater said that drywall is so wet in some areas that it can be pulled off by using your hands.

    INSURANCE INFORMATION
    While the City of Sanibel cannot provide private insurance information, Congressman Byron Donalds gave an update.

    In 2-3 days, individuals and small business owners can apply for Disaster Recovery Assistance at the center located at the Lakes Regional Library on Gladiolus and Bass. There will be additional Disaster Recovery Centers. They are bringing in all of the relevant agencies, thus why it is not called a FEMA village.

    FEMA is overwhelmed right now with submissions of claims. PLEASE, look to file a claim online as it is much faster.
    Individuals MUST give FEMA their post address (where they are staying) - NOT their Sanibel address. If individuals give a Sanibel address as their first point of communication, then the process will begin all over again.

    A claim must be made with FEMA directly.

    Individuals can file a claim with disasterassistance.gov.

    For the city - FEMA has established 30 days for 100% reimbursement expenditures for the storm. Members of the delegation are working to extend this to 100 days. If FEMA extends this to 100 days, Lee County can be primarily focused on disaster recovery rather than where the cost is coming from.

    He also stated that the re-building of the Sanibel Causeway will be a long process and to, please, have patience.

    Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/100068081412480/videos/460150412745190