Home News Reflecting on Hurricane Ian: Naples and Collier County Discuss Valuable Lessons a Year Later

Reflecting on Hurricane Ian: Naples and Collier County Discuss Valuable Lessons a Year Later

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Reflecting on Hurricane Ian: Naples and Collier County Discuss Valuable Lessons a Year Later

For our special one-year anniversary cover of Hurricane Ian, The News-Press and Naples Day by day News reporters have had conversations with local leaders and officials in regards to the vital lessons that were learned and what’s next for his or her communities.

On Sept. 28, 2022, Category 4 Hurricane Ian destroyed parts of Southwest Florida including Naples, Fort Myers, Sanibel Island, Isles of Capri, Cape Coral, and Pine Island. Several areas are still recovering from the storm’s damage.

Collier County and Naples officials say the storm taught them many lessons and continues to affect how they handle storm preparedness.

Naples Day by day News spoke with Naples City Manager Jay Boodheshwar and Collier County Emergency Services Director Dan Summers about what town and county learned from Ian.

How did the storm surge affect Naples and Collier

Hurricane Ian brought winds and rain to the inland areas of Collier and Naples, however the coastal areas faced disastrous storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico.

“Unfortunately, we now have all learned a strong reminder in regards to the potential and serious impact of storm surge,” Summers said. “A hurricane with a major on-shore flow-generating storm surge is such a special challenge versus a storm that’s, generally, only a wind event.”

Boodheshwar said Naples had experienced disastrous winds, but Ian showed town how detrimental storm surge might be.

“I believe a lesson learned is that town of Naples is vulnerable to a serious surge event,” Boodheshwar said.

The storm surge from Ian reached nearly 12 feet in Collier County and shut to 14 feet in Fort Myers Beach, causing detrimental flooding to coastal homes and businesses. Ian’s surge was the best recorded in Southwest Florida in greater than 150 years.

Importance of communication

Boodheshwar said Hurricane Ian showed how vital it’s to keep up communication during a disaster ― whether it’s between town and its residents or between town and the county.

“We have now higher plans due to what we learned from last 12 months,” Boodheshwar said. “Specifically when it comes to surge and the water and being prepared to speak quickly to the community.”

Naples and Collier County each have web sites and emergency alerts for weather-related incidents. Summers encourages residents to join the county’s emergency alerts.

“We will’t emphasize enough to remind our residents and guests to remain in contact and take motion upfront of those severe weather events,” Summers said. “Actively hearken to local government information regarding evacuations, have a plan, subscribe to Alert Collier for notifications, view the resources on the County’s website, and visit Ready.gov and Collier 311.”

Recovery in Naples and Collier a 12 months later

While it has been nearly a 12 months since Hurricane Ian slammed into Southwest Florida, some homes and businesses are still rebuilding. And a few locals still face emotional impacts from what Ian put them through.

“The homes that did well are those which might be newer, that were elevated, either naturally on higher areas of the community, or are elevated by design to fulfill the constructing codes,” Boodheshwar said. “So so far as the recovery goes, there are plenty of things that need to be demolished. Recent homes that can be built can be more resilient.”

Boodheshwar said the storm affected people in unique ways and that nobody experienced the very same thing.

“The degree of impact really varies from some people having zero impact, to others losing their homes and their lives,” Boodheshwar said. “And that isn’t lost on us. We understand the emotional trauma that occurred and we’re super sensitive to that emotional trauma.”

Collier County has experienced hurricanes before, but Summers said no two storms are the identical ― and that affects how recovery goes.

“In my 41 years of hurricane response efforts, truly every storm provides some unique challenges,” Summers said. “I don’t have any singular critical area of concern, but within the case of Ian and the regional issues it caused, our state faced resource challenges coping with concurrent disasters across the country.”

While Collier still faces recovery challenges today, Summers reflected back on how the county responded immediately after Ian’s impact.

“There may be all the time a balancing act to work to right-size the disaster response resources you would like pre-landfall and what you would like immediately following landfall when conditions and damage information are so fluid,” Summers said. “For instance, we were capable of spare some resources to Lee County, while still responding to our local needs.”

How Hurricane Ian impacted future storm preparedness

When Hurricane Idalia first developed right into a low-pressure system, Naples city officials jumped into motion due to how similar the storm looked to Ian.

“The weekend before Idalia became a named storm, we were in communication with the county, and we coordinated on the timing of our emergency declaration,” Boodheshwar said. “And that is very vital. We depend on one another for intelligence, and we depend on the county and their resources.”

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