Southwest Florida preparing for first tropical system of the season

Published: Updated:
Storm preperations
Drainage pipes being installed in Cape Coral. (Credit: WINK News)

Communities across Southwest Florida are working to ensure they are ready for the heavy rain expected this weekend.

Collier County

Emergency crews in Collier County say even though they aren’t in hurricane mode, they’ll be ready for the rain by prepping drainage systems and beaches.

“We’re not in the real hurricane mode, although in the gulf is quite warm, so we want to pay attention,” said Dan Summers, director of the Collier County Bureau of Emergency Services and Emergency Management.

Now that there’s a cone, there’s a new urgency for Summers and his team to get ready for sustained downpours and flooding.

That means checking drainage systems and their equipment.

“We have portable generators that might go to evacuation shelters. We have trailers that have supplies and equipment in them. So all of that right now is being readied. Some of it has already been deployed and is just staging,” said Summers.

Andy Miller, Collier County’s coastal zone manager, said they recently re-nourished many of the county and city beaches, so they’re in excellent shape to withstand what’s to come.

“Our beaches do serve a purpose, protecting the inland structures and citizens behind it,” said Miller.

Miller said crews took pictures of the beaches. That way, if there’s erosion, they can build it back.

“We put a lot of sand on all the counties and city beaches, so we are in really good shape to withstand, especially a storm that is not going to be as strong as he hopes this one is going to be,” said Miller.

Florida’s Department of Health in Collier County says you need to be prepared.

That includes having an emergency kit, enough food for every member of your family for up to 72 hours, and don’t forget your pets.

If you have to go out and you see flooding, turn around don’t drown.

The health department is also reminding you flood waters can cause bacterial illnesses.

“Do not enter water, especially, if you have open cuts or wounds. If you do need to enter floodwater for any reason, wear rubber boots, and rubber gloves and goggles,” said Kristine Hollingsworth, the PIO for the Florida Department of Health, Collier County.

The Department of Health is asking everyone to stay away from any flooding.

Just a few inches of water is enough to knock over an adult, which could result in serious injury.

Marco Island

In Marco Island, city officials are getting ready for the possibility of heavy rain, specifically in beach towns.

People were lying out in the sunshine on Thursday. Most people said WINK News was the first one telling them a storm was coming.

Most of them are tourists. As for the people who run Marco Island, they say they’re getting ready.

“Our staff is spending today and tomorrow getting ready for extensive rains that we’re expecting on Friday and Saturday, are building and facilities crews are working with construction companies to make sure their sites are secure,” said Casey Lucius, assistant city manager for Marco Island.

Lucius knows that storm prep is a serious business.

“We’re ready to go out and clear the storm drains and close off any streets to make sure our residents are safe,” said Lucius.

Lucius said water drainage is a main focal point this weekend and that they do not want a repeat of Hurricane Irma’s damage. Drainage issues have caused problems for the town in the past, and it can hinder people’s ability to evacuate in an emergency.

“As our residents know, we did experience a lot of flooding and downed trees during Irma. We haven’t had that type of storm since then. Luckily, and we’re hoping to avoid it this year as well. But we’re prepared as a result of that we know which streets are vulnerable to flooding. We know we have the equipment and the personnel to be able to go out and clear the streets as quickly as possible, and our first responders are ready to react and make sure our residents are safe,” said Lucius.

Marco Island is prepared to shut down roads to clear them more quickly.

Cape Coral

Neighbors in Cape Coral are bracing for a mess. Homeowners along Everest Parkway are worried about what a tropical system could bring to their streets.

The city says a damaged pipe is causing that standing water.

Everest Parkway has been a construction zone for months. Crews are working on the Caloosahatchee Connect project, a pipeline that will eventually bring water from Fort Myers to the Cape.

Brian Ludwig saw water take over his neighborhood on Tuesday.

“My garbage can and recycle cans started floating away. I had to wade down through the water and collect the cans,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig said the water went up to his knees and was creeping up driveways trapping neighbors inside their homes.

According to the city, the flooding was caused by water sending sandbags into a culvert pipe, blocking the water flow.

Public works corrected the issue on Thursday by cutting the section of the pipe, removing the sandbags, and replacing the pipe.

They got it done before the heavy rains this weekend.

Lehigh Acres

Crews in Lehigh Acres are monitoring the situation this weekend. Work is done all year round to maintain storm drains, ditches and canals.

On Thursday, crews made sure to do what they could to reduce the risk of flooding.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) installed four drainage pods along a canal in Lehigh Acres.

Crews threw some heavy rocks down at the base of the pods to prevent erosion and stop the bank from washing out.

It’s up to the Department of Transportation to make sure ditches, storm drains and canals can handle all the water we see during a storm.

DOT works year-round, but extra before expected flood rains.

Sandra Tapfimaneyi, Lee County’s director of public safety, refers back to what we saw during Irma.

“We are extremely flat, right. And so there is a flooding event that you should anticipate or at least prepare for regardless of where you are in the county. You know, we saw flooding in parts of Lehigh and well far inland. And it had more to do with the immense rainfall that comes with a storm. Maybe not necessarily the storm surge,” said Tapfimaneyi.

Expect to see DOT workers back out in areas around Lee County on Friday morning.

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