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Sanibel preparing for Elsa while also accommodating thousands of tourists

Posted at 12:06 AM, Jul 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-04 00:06:54-04

SANIBEL — This weekend, emergency services are pulling double duty.

They’re increasing their presence for the 4th of July, and also preparing for Tropical Storm Elsa. If that storm hits Southwest Florida, it's barrier islands like Sanibel that will feel it first.

Beaches on the island were packed Saturday, which means more emergency calls for the Sanibel Fire Department.

"Our hotels are almost at capacity right now, which increases our risk should this storm get closer," said Deputy Chief Kevin Barbot.

And it is getting closer.

Projections still have Southwest Florida in Elsa’s path. The storm just hit the island of Barbados Friday, causing damage to homes and power lines. It could do the same to us late Monday evening into Tueday morning.

Barbot said, if those high winds and rain do come here, you want to be far away from the beach.

"Get off the water early, and if you have boats remember to secure them at the docks," said Barbot.

That’s a warning Brooke Tudor said she's taking seriously.

"We weren’t planning to be on the water tomorrow, just because, you know with the weather and everything," said Tudor, who is visitng from Clearwater, FL.

Rena Abercrombie told us, for her, the storm may mess up some pretty big plans.

"My youngest son is getting engaged, and he’s flying down here," said Abercrombie.

But no matter what your plans are, the Sanibel Fire Department says to keep an eye on the news or social media so you know the latest conditions, because if you’re caught on the water when Elsa hits, you might be on your own.

"There comes a certain point in time, depending on downed power lines, winds, tornadoes where we may not respond. We may stop our response altogether," said Barbot.

And if crews aren’t responding, some people might end up spending a little longer on the island than they planned.

"We only have one way on and one way off the island. So when you get the warning that we are going to experience high winds, they may shut down the causeway," said Barbot.

But Abercrombie said, she’ll be in good spirits whatever the storm brings.

"If they have to shut it down, they have to shut it down. We’ll celebrate the next day," said Abercrombie.