Charlotte County in need of more robust hurricane shelters

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

Schools normally serve as a safe haven during severe hurricanes. For Charlotte County, it’s a different story. Some neighbors believe there are facilities better suited to provide shelter during major storms and other natural disasters.

Charlotte County is facing a shelter shortage after its emergency management services removed Port Charlotte Middle School from the list of hurricane shelters, bringing the total number of shelters to just two.

“I think there are better institutions that have fairly substantial shelters, for example Windmill Village over here,” Ron MacLaren said. “They have a huge facility that is supposed to be hurricane resistant.”

Hurricane Charlie is a storm that doesn’t escape memory for residents like Ron Thomas in Punta Gorda. It is still one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall in the United States along with its sibling storms Frances, Ivan and Jeanne that all made landfall in Florida in 2004.

“Charley was a mess, and I’m still traumatized by it,” Thomas said.

Thomas along with many others stayed put thinking it was headed for Tampa Bay, but most of Charlotte County was hit by the storm.

“I think all of the schools south of the Peace River were all severely damaged,” Thomas said. “I think they were all closed for a period of time.”

The county is trying to accommodate the need, and there is a proposal to rebuild Port Charlotte Middle.

“I don’t think we have enough shelters to accommodate our needs right now in the Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte area,” Thomas said. “I’m thankful we are looking at this proactively.”

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