ISLAND PARK, Fla. — Flooding concerns are on the minds of Lee County residents as hurricane season barrels on throughout Southwest Florida.
Projects have been in place to prevent such disasters as seen in 2017 with Hurricane Irma. One of those areas hardest hit is Island Park. Four years ago, the area was completely submerged in water. A local resident we spoke to, who was there during Hurricane Irma, said she’s worried about the prospect of another storm sweeping through the area.
“It hit us that this was going to be really bad and this was not going to be a quick thing.”
It’s the thought looming in the back of every Floridian’s mind: hurricane season. And with it, the potential of flooding.
“I don’t think that we really knew the extent of what was going to happen during the tropical depression, first.”
Alice White has been living in Island Park for 13 years. She was here when Hurricane Irma made landfall, leaving areas flooded with water beyond measure in its wake.
“The amount of water in the homes, the fish and all of the animals that were dead, everywhere," recounts White. "As the water started pulling back some of the dead animals were everywhere. Finding out what was going to happen, dealing with insurance companies, checking on our neighbors, checking on the elderly. Some people stayed here even though they were told to leave.”
Since that time, Lee County has undergone a number of projects to prevent disasters with flooding. Lee County was granted $7.1 million for flood resiliency, allowing the county to step up the pace of drainage improvements. One doesn’t have to look far to see those changes, with the housing next door to white. In recent years, new building codes have been enacted requiring homes to be built at a certain height.
“Although this was built in the ‘80s, it was built to a certain code which has now changed," says White. "So I’m not sure of the legalities of it but I have seen paperwork that was sent that if a certain percentage of flooding was to happen again in here, that they might consider leveling all of these homes. What would happen then? I don’t know. Again, I’m just praying- praying to God- that it never happens again.”
We did reach out to those within Lee County for an update on such projects, but no one was available. They did, however, provide us with a statement reading:
The Lee Board of County Commissioners and county staff have taken myriad steps toward flood mitigation since the 2017 rainy season, when two tropical systems impacted Lee County during a two-week period.
Those steps included:
· Using staff expertise as well as outside vendors to immediately clear waterways, ditches swales, drainage canals and other infrastructure;
· Documenting and studying flooded areas and further clear obstructions, as well as meeting with private property owners and informing them of the impediments to water flow on their own property;
· And, assembling a master list of proposed projects that could help mitigate flooding long-term.
Island Park residents have not seen flooding since Hurricane Irma. Rainfall dissipates as it is supposed to during heavy storms.
The county’s overall goal is to mitigate flooding for residents while not adversely affecting residents in adjacent areas.
They also advise all residents to seek appropriate insurance. White says her and her husband have improved their coverage just in case.
“Make sure you’re adequately insured, make sure your payments are on time, and make sure you have a long conversation with your broker as to what your expectations are," said White. "But again, it’s never going to happen. So that’s how I feel.”