Sally brings flooding to already saturated SWFL

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Residents of Sanibel are dealing with severe flooding from what is now Hurricane Sally.

Sally moved westward over Collier County on Sunday as a tropical storm before entering the Gulf and strengthening.

On the island, they’ve had more than 20 inches of rain in the past nine days and streets and yards are currently underwater, leaving some worried about their homes. Some parts of the island saw upwards of 8 inches in a short period.

The standing water on a section of Southwinds Drive is shin-high in the street and up to the doors of some homes.

Other parts of Sanibel are still feeling the impacts of Sally after rain pounded the island all weekend long.

Tom Schmidt described it as “noisy like we had a small hurricane,” saying his yard was looking more like a pond.

He was here for Hurricane Irma and said the flooding from Sally doesn’t compare, “This was much worse. I knew this morning it was rising. We have things in our downstairs and I thought wow, it might actually get in there and breach it.”

Schmidt was lucky.

No water made its way inside his home. He went to check on neighbors’ homes who weren’t so fortunate.

Mayor Kevin Ruane agrees that a rain band from Sally hit them harder than they expected. “Probably one-in-a-hundred type of event. I have cities that have never flooded here flood. When you get that amount of rain, 7, 8, 9 inches, there’s nowhere for it to go.”

All that’s left to do is wait for the floodwaters to go down.

The mayor said he’s looking into finding money to help people with clean up and damage repairs. Right now, he hopes everyone is patient and careful as the waters recede.

Bonita Springs

Sanibel isn’t the only place that is seeing flooding. Some in Bonita Springs said the rain from the tropical storm brought back memories of Hurricane Irma three years ago.

Felicia Wilkinson said it “kind of reminded me of the last hurricane that we went through, Irma, when everything was underwater, it rained so fast here.”

Bonita Springs residents want the city to do more for drainage to help with future storms.

After Sally’s rains, checking the mailbox requires wading through water.

Dwight Esmon said their yard usually stays dry, but when it’s underwater, they call it “Lake Morningside.”

And it’s not “Lake Morningside’s” first appearance for the 13-year residents.

Esmon said, “Anytime we have a large amount of rain for a short period of time, once the ground is saturated and the street gets covered in water and the ditches fill up and it doesn’t flow anywhere.”

Across their neighborhood, it’s the same story. Down Paradise Road, you can see yards filled with water, sidewalks overflowing and roads blocked.

Felicia Wilkinson said the City of Bonita Springs needs to do more than just put in swales, “They put a swale out and it’s great but the water sits there, mosquitoes sit there, snakes sit there.”

Esmon hopes for a city project to possibly use a former golf course to improve stormwater drainage will help.

“I’m hoping the city is going to do what needs to be done in order to take care of the problem,” he added.

The City of Bonita Springs said a study showed its golf course flood improvement project could help improve both water quality and stormwater drainage.

The project is in phase one.


The rain for Sally in Collier County caused a mess for Matthew Philpot at his plant nursery, Clark’s Plant Service, in East Naples.

“It was like a bad dream, it brought back Irma,” he said.

Water flooded their pond and overflowed into their plant houses.

“Irma, we probably lost around $100,000 worth of inventory. A lot of rain in a condensed time. It’s a scary situation”

Thankfully, it was not enough to hurt his business.

Some in Collier County also woke up to flooded neighborhoods.

Jerry Wright lives on Pelican Street on Marco Island and said that on Sunday, it was underwater. “It didn’t seem to stop people; they just seem to go right on through.”

Crews are working throughout Collier County to drain standing water from ditches.

“The county in the last month has come through and retrenched the ditches, and that has helped,” Philpot said. “Sounds like they did it just in time.”

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