Charlotte County declares state of emergency, government offices closed

Author: Nancy Semon, Gulfshore Business
Published: Updated:

Charlotte County commissioners called an emergency meeting Monday at the county’s administration building on Murdock Circle and declared a state of emergency. 

They announced that all county offices will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday. However, essential services such as waste management pickup are not expected to be impacted. 

Earlier, Charlotte County Public Schools announced that schools in the county will be closed August 29 and August 30. 

The county’s emergency management director Patrick Fuller provided an update at the commissioners’ meeting, then later at emergency management headquarters at the Public Safety Building on Airport Road in Punta Gorda. 

Commissioner Joe Tiseo expressed concerns that Hurricane Idalia would wobble as has been the case in past storms that impacted Charlotte County. 

By late afternoon on Monday, Tropical Storm Idalia was headed toward the northern part of the state, from Tampa north to the Big Bend area. But commissioners urged the public to follow the storm closely and to have a bag ready to go in the event an evacuation is called. 

Hurricane Charley in 2004 was also expected to impact Tampa, but it turned south toward Fort Myers, then made landfall at Captiva Island and moved up Charlotte Harbor toward Punta Gorda, destroying parts of the city and downtown area. 

Hurricane Ian last year was predicted to make landfall in Tampa but instead hit Cayo Costa and ravaged Fort Myers Beach and other parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast with storm surge. 

Fuller said no evacuations are being ordered, since Charlotte County’s storm surge is expected to be between 2 and 4 feet. However, if the storm changes direction and the storm surge is predicted to be 6 feet at the beaches, then evacuations would be called. 

A number of residents are still living in travel trailers and damaged homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Fuller said. 

He said they might feel unsafe and want to evacuate but have no place to go. 

Because of their needs, a refuge center was being prepared on Monday at Centennial Park Recreation Center, 1120 Centennial Boulevard in Port Charlotte. 

The center opened at 8 a.m. Tuesday. 

It is pet-friendly and those feeling unsafe and can choose to go there. 

Those needing a ride to the refuge center can call Charlotte County Transport at 941-575-4000. 

Commissioner Chris Constance commended Fuller, and said, “You’ve got 48 hours’ worth of work in a 24-hour day.” 

Charlotte County Fire and EMS Chief Jason Fair was also at the commissioners’ meeting. He said Charlotte County is prepared to send emergency vehicles to areas impacted by Idalia. 

Constance, who is a doctor, said he cancelled nonessential surgeries in the event patients from areas impacted by Idalia, need to be transported to Charlotte County hospitals. 

During Hurricane Charley, when the county’s three hospitals sustained severe damages, ambulances from Tampa, for instance, transported local patients to hospitals farther north. 

Fair said that Charlotte County in the past has sent its own vehicles as far as North Carolina to provide help following a hurricane. 

He and Constance likened Florida’s 67 counties to a brotherhood in times of disasters such as hurricanes. 

Some residences and businesses are still undergoing repairs from the effects of Hurricane Ian last year. There are those still living in temporary trailers and residential vehicles as their homes are being repaired. 

Services, such as trash and recycling pickups, could be suspended for Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. A decision was expected to be announced later Monday. 

Some county facilities are currently making their plans. The Centennial Park Recreation Center in Port Charlotte announced it closed at noon on Monday. 

“This isn’t our first rodeo,” said Patti Allen, general manager of Fishermen’s Village, which has numerous shops and restaurants. 

She said although the village sustained roof damage and water intrusion from Hurricane Ian, “We were up and operating after a week.” Fishermen’s Village has an entire plan of action it follows ahead of storms headed to the area. 

The Military Heritage Museum in Punta Gorda closed ahead of Idalia and will not reopen until Friday. 

A Punta Gorda Code Enforcement meeting slated for 9 a.m. Wednesday at the museum was cancelled. 

Punta Gorda City Hall suffered damages from Hurricane Ian last year, and City Council and other city departments have been meeting at the Military Heritage Museum. 

Punta Gorda has a separate public works department and council member Bill Dryburgh said so far, no decisions have been made for the city.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.