Non-profit assess flooding, heat concerns in Fort Myers

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Southwest Florida is susceptible to severe weather events, so much so that a ranking of the 100 most populated cities placed Fort Myers in the second spot for risk of fire, flood, heat and wind damage. Moreover, over the next 30 years, those risks are expected to rise.

Scientists in Southwest Florida are saying the changes in the environment mean higher and warmer waters, new weather patterns and stronger storms.

“One of the most noticeable aspects of climate change is sea level rise,” John Rizzo, a National Weather Service Warming Coordination Meteorologist, said.

Rizzo explained that what was once considered a “little” weather event could become a big deal.

“Once tropical storms, which were dismissed as windy days and rough water, open water, well, now they can have a storm surge to them,” Rizzo said. “The water might be a foot or two higher than it was decades from now, than it was a decade or two ago.”

Air and water temperature and sea levels are all factored into storm strength, surge and flood risk.

A non-profit called Risk Factor creates models for businesses and people to understand the risks involved when the environment changes. They believe over the next 30 years, more than 8,000 homes in Fort Myers, which is 35% of homes, are at risk of flooding.

The roads don’t have it much better since minor flooding occurs on rainy days. More than 42% of Fort Myers’ miles of roads will be at risk of becoming impassable due to flooding.

Interestingly, Naples and Cape Coral have a higher risk of flooding than Fort Myers but didn’t make Risk Factor’s overall list.

While flooding is dangerous, heat causes more deaths annually than any other natural risk. Temperatures become dangerous at a “feels like” temperature of 100 degrees.

Fort Myers had 30 days of those dangerous heat levels 30 years ago, which has since jumped to 72. However, in 30 years, it’s expected to jump to 109 days.

Vulnerability to wildfire is based on factors like vegetation, fuel sources, topography and weather. Nearly 24,000 properties, or 80%, in Fort Myers are at risk of being affected by wildfire in the next 30 years.

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