Cape Coral canal cleanup begins

Reporter: Asha Patel Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
On Monday, the City of Cape Coral begins the process of cleaning post-Hurricane Ian debris out of its canals.
A ruined dock juts into a Cape Coral canal. Credit: WINK News

On Monday, the City of Cape Coral began the process of cleaning post-Hurricane Ian debris out of its canals.

First, the city will tackle all the canal debris that can be reached from land, things like downed trees and other junk clinging to the shore.

Tim Gorton has lived in Cape Coral for 54 years, and Hurricane Ian was unlike anything he has ever seen. In the canal behind his home, he sees things like logs and branches floating in the water, but also junk like coolers. Gorton says he is relieved that Cape Coral will start to get the hurricane debris out of the canals this week.

“People who want to go out can’t go, because we got part of a dock over here, and you got plans over here, and it’s very dangerous,” Gorton said. “We have pilings, we have all kinds of wood, parts of boats, and let’s see what else… anything you can think of that will be on a boat would be in the water right now.”

Outside of the canals, Cape Coral says 21,175 truckloads of hurricane debris were removed from streets throughout the city since debris collection began on Oct. 5. The collected debris could cover 160 football fields at 3 feet high.

“See my boat, right, is just sitting here as part of somebody else’s pile,” Gorton said. “Dock right there sitting on my dock—my dock was hidden. And it’s in shreds right now. Especially for someone—it’s a long haul—who is 83 years old.”

At 90 years old, Bob Hafere said it’s not every day he gets to experience something new. He moved to Cape Coral 14 months ago, so Ian was his first hurricane.

“We watched from the window, and we saw the cage go down. We saw that go over, saw some of the trees fall down, it was exciting. Once in a while, it got a little scary we’d back away from the window,” said Hafere.

Hafer could see his second storm before the end of the week as Subtropical Storm Nicole eyes Florida’s east coast.

“Crews might have to deal with some rain, but other than that, we don’t expect further damage,” said Terry Schweitzer, Cape Coral Solid Waste manager.

That’s encouraging because Cape Coral believes there is already 200,000 cubic yards of debris in its canals.

Schweitzer said his crews are in good shape but won’t say no to neighbors helping them out.

“If there’s debits by a storm drain or a catch basin if the resident or someone nearby could move that if the crew hasn’t been there yet. It’s difficult to break a crew off just to go, spot something because that slows down the whole process,” said Schweitzer.

If anything, the debris cleanup needs to go faster. Schweiter thinks it will take six months to clear out the canals.

If you see any debris in the canals, you can call 311. That way the city can map out where that debris is so crews know where to look

A Cape Coral spokesperson says once the shoreline is clear, the city will bring in barges to get anything that may be sitting on the bottom of the canals at a later date.

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