FEMA doesn’t want to put trailers in flood zones

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

People needing FEMA trailers have waited months, and now, FEMA is saying no to some who have applied. FEMA says they do not want to put trailers in a flood zone, but many of the people who need help the most are in flood zones.

Lee County commissioners learned about FEMA’s rule on Tuesday. For more than 70 days, no one from FEMA told anyone they wouldn’t place a trailer in a flood zone.

It’s possible FEMA representatives who visited many destroyed, and damaged homes didn’t know the rule either.

One representative visited Richard Stengel’s home in island park and marked it for a trailer, but since that day, Stengel hasn’t heard a thing.

“My car was sitting right here. And that’s gone,” said Stengel.

Stengel didn’t just lose his car in Hurricane Ian. His furniture’s gone, his walls are gone, and his whole home is pretty much gone.

“I’ve been living with my sister over in San Carlos Park. She had a she got a two-bedroom house. She had a bedroom I could [use], but she’s gonna have to have that. So I don’t know. I’ll be OK. Until next week, two weeks, two weeks, and then we’ll see,” said Stengel.

Stengel thought the one thing he would see by now is a FEMA trailer parked on his front lawn.

“I was approved, staked it out, and he says it will be probably two weeks, and that was first part of November,” Stengel said.

That representative never said the trailer might never come because FEMA won’t park its trailers in a flood zone.

“That just boggles my mind,” said Stengel.

Stengel isn’t alone in that thought. Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman can’t determine what FEMA is doing with this rule.

“FEMA has rules [that] don’t seem to make sense. They say we can’t help flood victims because they live in flood plains. Well, yeah, of course, they live in flood plains. That’s why they got flooded. That’s why they need a FEMA trailer,” said Hamman.

At a Lee County recovery workshop, FEMA representatives explained the reasoning. They said the trailers could be parked across Lee County for one hurricane season, maybe two, and that’s not safe.

Stengel had an easy answer for that concern.

“Let me take the responsibility. You know, and if there’s a hurricane coming and you have to evacuate. They’re looking for a loss of life. Believe me, you know, I learned my lesson this time,” said Stengel.

FEMA said it’s looking into 18 locations where they could create a group site for the trailers.

It’s somewhere for them to be placed, but that doesn’t help out people like Stengel as much as if it was on their front lawn.

“Would that be hour drive from here? Or would it be a 15? It’s not gonna be a 15 or 20-minute drive. So you’d be commuting,” said Stengel.

That is just not ideal, especially when you ask Hamman.

“After the hurricane happened, we had a parade of officials that came to town who said we’re here to help anything you need, just let us know. Here’s what we need right now. We need some temporary trailers that could be allowed to be placed on our resident’s properties so that they can stay near their homes as they try to rebuild their lives,” Hamman said.

A FEMA representative said it’s looking at 18 different group sites across Lee County,
but those have to undergo extensive planning, including environmental and mitigation reviews. Then the commissioners have to look over it, and the public has to comment on it. All of which would take time, time that many storm victims just don’t have.

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