‘We got very lucky’
Tropical Storm Elsa leaves a lot of rain, but little reported damage on Fort Myers Beach
Count Tuesday as a victory for Fort Myers Beach in its tally with environmental forces and otherwise after it escaped any major damage reported from Tropical Storm Elsa.
After a day of rain, Tropical Storm Elsa picked up the pace on Fort Myers Beach late Tuesday afternoon with heavier downpours and winds that reached more than 40 miles per hour according to the National Weather Service. A number of streets and parking lots experienced flooding but there were no major incidents reported.
Town of Fort Myers Beach Fire Department Executive Assistant Chief Ron Martin said aside from some downed trees and “localized flooding” in low-lying areas, there were no major damage reported that the department responded to.
“It went well,” Martin said. “The community fared well.” Martin said there was “nothing out of the ordinary. There was nothing as bad as it could have been.”
Town of Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt said the storm went “about as good as it could have gone.”
The only issue reported was at The Mound House, where there was some water seepage reported. Hernstadt said staff was looking into it to determine the cause.
The Mound House was closed Tuesday and Wednesday but is scheduled to re-open on Thursday. Bay Oaks Recreational Campus was open Wednesday and there was no damage there.
The town is in the midst of a major stormwater drainage project so some streets handled the rain better than others. Hernstadt said 15 streets are currently lined up to see the stormwater drainage improvements as the town works on the multi-million dollar project on a course of severity. About 20 streets have undergone the stormwater drainage system reconstruction.
Tropical Storm Elsa was upgraded to a hurricane Tuesday but it was centered far off the coast and the center of the hurricane didn’t make landfall until early Wednesday about five hours north in Taylor County.
National Weather Service meteorologist Tyler Fleming said Lee County felt the effects of the tropical storm. Throughout Lee County there were sustained periods of heavy wind and large accumulations of rain throughout the afternoon and past midnight.
In Fort Myers, the National Weather Service recorded up to 7 inches of rain, 6.83 inches in Cape Coral and 7.4 inches on Sanibel Island.
Wind gusts of 46 mph were recorded at Tarpon Point in Cape Coral and 42 mph on Sanibel.
Lee County Government issued a statement Wednesday afternoon reporting localized flooding on Captiva Island, Pine Island and the John Morris Road area in south Fort Myers.
“Crews worked to clear outfalls and continued to monitor those areas and others through the high tide cycle. The work that crews performed before Elsa – including clearing roadside ditches, swales and drainage canals – appears to have helped mitigate localized flooding in many areas that typically experience it,” the press release stated.
The Florida Department of Health cautions residents against swimming or wading in floodwaters. Children who play in floodwaters can be exposed to water contaminated with fecal matter or other waste. The county encourages residents and visitors to monitor the National Weather Service’s notices about rip currents. Dangerous riptides are present all along the Gulf Coast and will continue to be throughout today and Thursday. To better understand riptide conditions, visit www.weather.gov/safety/ripcurrent.Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Gregory Bueno, whose district encompasses 10 counties in Southwest Florida, said Lee County was similar to other counties in the region – with accidents keeping the department busy Tuesday and Wednesday, including one rollover on Interstate-75 in Lee County.
“We responded to quite a few crashes where drivers failed to drive to the conditions,” Bueno said. “Luckily, there was nothing that serious in nature.”
Bueno said there were no fatal crashes during the storm in Lee County.
Bueno said the storm was a reminder for drivers to drive cautiously during and after rainstorms.
“It’s important to remember to adjust your driving, adjust your speeds, no distractions,” Bueno said. Bueno said the rain and the puddles that form on roads can lead to hyrdroplaning, which can send cars off the road.
Bueno said the early part of the storm Tuesday kept the department busiest though the aftermath of the storm was also dangerous due to pockets of standing water that had built up on some roads.