Southwest Florida prepares for ‘rainmaker event,’ as Potential Tropical System One arrives

Published: June 3, 2022 5:55 PM EDT
Updated: June 4, 2022 11:16 AM EDT

Southwest Florida is preparing for the storm. For some, that means waiting on the beach to surf a wave.

For others that means clearing debris and making sure roadways are passable.

Collier County

A lot of rain is coming down on Marco Island, but that isn’t stopping tourists who are visiting Southwest Florida.

Marco Island man Elliot Totten said he was waiting for the water to get rougher so he can go surfing.

Monica and Jill picked this weekend for a girl’s road trip.

They said it’s great except for the weather but they are making the most of it.

Totten doesn’t miss a storm.

“You got to look for the big storms, the wind so every hurricane I’m out here,” Totten said. “I was checking to see if there’s any good surf yet. I’m trying to surf tonight. You know?!?”

Marco Island will get rain before the rest of Southwest Florida.

When the storm rolls in and the big waves arrive, Totten said he will be waiting.

“Get outside! Come on now. Come on now! How often do we get big storms like this,” Totten said.

Casey Lucius, Marco Island’s assistant city manager, said the city has extra crews on hand to make sure the drainage process goes smoothly in case of any flooding.

“We have an intersection right here by City Hall, which is the corner of heap wood and bald eagle. And that has been a problematic intersection in the past that has flooded quite a bit,” Lucius said. “So we’ve actually been working for months on raising the intersection putting a new storm drain so that it doesn’t flood and so that our residents are able to traverse the island safely.”

In Naples, crews from the county and city paid attention to the problem areas known to get flooded.

“We also remind homeowners, ditches in your particular neighborhood, now is the time not before it gets any worse. But just to make sure that you’re letting that water flow, later on if that water gets deep, or the water is moving fat, don’t mess with it. That’s too dangerous,” said Dan Summers, director of the Collier County Bureau of Emergency Services and Emergency Management.

Emergency Management would prefer everyone stay home, but if you have to go out, don’t drive through flooded areas.

Lee County 

Crews from the city of Fort Myers spent the day trimming trees and picking up debris.

Friday night’s Art Walk is been postponed in downtown Fort Myers. The weather won’t allow the 70 or so artists to showcase their work.

A spokeswoman with the city of Fort Myers said crews have worked for months to prevent flooding in advance of the rainy season and the hurricane season.

“Our team actually goes ahead and surveys the city for approximately six months, generally, when it’s dry, so that we can get a clearer sense of you know, where it is that we have excessive foliage that needs to be cut down so that we don’t have any accidents and we don’t have any material blocking our catch basins,” said Fort Myers spokeswoman Liz Bello-Matthews.

Crews also cleaned catch basins.

Lisa Sbuttoni, the CEO and President of the River District Alliance in downtown Fort Myers, said she doesn’t expect it to flood.

Sbuttoni said sometimes the water level gets high, “but it seems to drain off.”

Stephanie Davis is a 40-year veteran of Florida storms. Davis said it seems like the city has done a good job to prepare.

“They’re letting everybody know what’s going on,” Davis said.

Fort Myers Fire Chief Tracy McMillion said he worries less about storm vets like Davis and more about people who just moved here.

“You want to stay tuned to the news, right, because this is great information that’s coming, but no reason to be concerned. Just be prepared. And that is the number one thing if we can be prepared, we can be successful,” McMillion said.

Davis’ advice to everyone?

“I would say with this one, you know, just don’t panic,” Davis said.

Flooding and storm surges have both been issues on Sanibel in the past, especially at Blind Pass.

People are preparing with sandbags, including at the Mad Hatter restaurant, an area that gets heavy flooding.

Despite the storm, people on Sanibel say they refuse to let the weather ruin their vacations.

“This is the absolute first year that we’ve ever had even the slightest bit of rain. But we’ve already been out on the beach this morning collecting shells with the umbrellas in hand and we’re just not going to let anything dampen our spirits today,” said Jeani Hood, who is visiting from the east coast. “This is our one time a year that all three of us get together and we’re just going to make the best possible of it.”

On Fort Myers Beach, restaurant staff pulled in their furniture to be ready for the storm but kept the food and drinks flowing.

Other restaurants like Mangoritas decided to close for the day.

“If it’s just going to be rain, everybody in Times Square closes, we have a roof, so come down,” said Kevin Frazier, the kitchen manager at Sunset Beach Bar and Grill. “I mean we can just get a rain during the day and get 45-mile an hour winds and that’s not you know what I mean, it’s normal. It’s Florida.”

Tina O’Leary and Cindy Jacobson are visiting Southwest Florida but are at the end of their trip. Their only hope is to be able to fly out on Saturday.