Lee and Collier emergency officials warn residents to follow evacuation zones

Reporter: Michelle Alvarez
Published: Updated:

When emergency officials say it’s time to evacuate, that means leave. It can be a matter of life or death, just like when Ian hit in 2022.

“Be prepared. We’ve seen what happened during Ian, and let’s just take the necessary precautions to make sure that you and your family are not in any danger and that you can get out,” said Kevin Swanepoel from Bonita Springs.

Each coastal county is broken up into several zones associated with flood risks. The categories start with “A” for barrier islands and low-lying areas, and “F” for areas with the least risk of flooding.

“I think just all that type of readiness, make sure you got the water; make sure you’ve got extra fuel, if need be,” Swanepoel added.

Swanepoel lives in Bonita Springs right in the middle of Lee and Collier counties.

“I think if you see a storm coming, what direction you’d have to go based on where the storm is coming from, and then just plan an evacuation route and just be prepared,” he said. “Look at what hotels are up, the route that you might take, and also just how long is it going to take.”

It’s important to understand that each zone is given an evacuation timeframe, which can vary from a few hours to a few days, depending on how hard and where a storm hits.

“Disaster preparedness and severe weather is a 365-day-a-year job for us in terms of preparedness,” said Dan Summers.

Summers is the director of Collier County Emergency Management.

“We want you to shelter inland with family or friends or, as we like to say, a half a tank of fuel to evacuate and a half a tank of fuel to come back. There’s no need to go to another state.”

Lee County Emergency Management’s goal is to have people evacuate tens of miles, not hundreds of miles, or shelter in place if they are not under an evacuation order. They said they’re not focused on the long-range or seasonal forecasts but on preparation.

“We want you to hide from the wind but run from the water. And it’s that storm surge inundation, that water that we’re talking about, which is why we have that coastal evacuation zone that is almost always a given for all these storm events,” Summers said.

Emergency management officials said evacuation times are more like planning tools and not a forecast of how a storm will go.

To find where your evacuation zone is in Lee, click here, and for Collier, click here.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

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