CM Letter: Continue Storm Preparations

Dear Sanibel residents and business owners,

City Manager Dana Souza

I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for getting your homes and businesses ready for the eventual arrival of Hurricane Ian. At this time, Hurricane Ian is in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba and is expected to become a major hurricane as it approaches Cuba and moves into the Gulf of Mexico. It is never an easy task to batten down the hatches on our homes and property, but as coastal Florida residents, it is something we must plan for each year and carry out when there is an approaching storm with an uncertain path.

While I want to be optimistic the storm will track well to the west of Sanibel, residents who lived on the island during Hurricane Charley know all too well how quickly a hurricane can change course, defying all the predictions and forecasts. That is my primary purpose for writing you today – to ask you to continue with your storm preparations and to be ready to evacuate Sanibel if necessary. The most recent forecast tracks for Hurricane Ian place the storm further to the west than the original forecasts, however we must remain vigilant until the storm passes to the north and we can hopefully breathe a sigh of relief. The track continues to wobble as of this morning and forecasters are doing their best to provide communities with the best possible information.

Based on current projections, Hurricane Ian should be southwest of Sanibel by Tuesday evening. As we all know, tropical storms and hurricanes are more than windstorms. They bring the potential for heavy rainfall, flooding, and storm surge impacts, in addition to damaging winds. Therefore, we must be prepared for all potential storm impacts, even if the hurricane force winds are west of Sanibel. The forecast track of the storm, to the west of Sanibel, also increases the probability Sanibel may be impacted by storm surge.

City staff have opened weirs that manage stormwater levels at Tarpon Bay and Beach Road to lower the current levels of water in the eastern and western pools of the Sanibel Slough. The weirs are opened for low tide and then closed again during the incoming and high tide to prevent backflow. Because the ground is already saturated from summer rains, managing the Slough pools in advance of the storm will be helpful if Sanibel receives lesser rainfall. However, if Sanibel receives heavy amounts of rainfall and/or experiences storm surge, Sanibel will experience flooding that may take a few days or more to recede.

With all this in mind, the Sanibel City Council will meet today, Monday, September 26, 2022, at 5:30pm, to consider declaring a local State of Emergency. The proposed City Council Resolution also recommends a voluntary evacuation in advance of the storm; postpones the Planning Commission meeting scheduled for September 28 to a date to be determined; and postpones the City Council Final Budget Hearing to October 3, 2022 at 5:01 pm.

Please note, Lee County could change the voluntary evacuation order to a mandatory evacuation order at any time, so please continue to monitor information from the City and Lee County. If you would like to receive notifications from Alert Lee, please click here.

Should residents or businesses need a Hurricane Reentry Pass, you may click here to be connected to the City’s Emergency Management page to download the application form. Once you have completed the form, you will need to bring it to the Sanibel Police Department to receive your pass (if eligible).

Should residents or business need sandbags, the Sanibel Public Works Department has placed sand and a funnel at the Recycling Center on Dunlop Road. Residents and businesses owners must bring their own bags as the City does not provide them.

Please finish preparations at your home and businesses and consider evacuating the island. Please continue to monitor the weather and our news releases. Be safe during this storm event and call upon us at 239-472-3000, if you have any questions.

Dana A. Souza
City Manager

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