by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
The City of Sanibel has declared a local state of emergency, and is strongly recommending voluntary evacuation, as Hurricane Ian is expected to impact the island Tuesday and Wednesday. City leaders are encouraging residents to be prepared for a likely mandatory evacuation order from Lee County as early as Tuesday morning.
Mayor Holly Smith said there is a high probability Lee County will issue a mandatory evacuation order Tuesday morning, which would include the islands, if the storm’s track does not change overnight. “Everyone should take this storm very seriously,” she said and encouraged all residents to be prepared.
Although there is a lot of uncertainty about Ian, it is predicted to pass the island 80 miles offshore Tuesday and dump four- to eight-inches of rain with tropical storm force winds by that evening. Ian may slow after passing the island, which could increase the estimated rainfall totals. But the predicted four- to seven-foot storm surge is the biggest concern for the island right now. And it’s possible the storm surge could lag through Thursday.
“The predicted storm surge is presenting different concerns for Ian than previous storms,” said Police Chief Bill Dalton. He also took a moment to emphasize the dangers of staying on the island after a mandatory evacuation.
“We can’t guarantee anyone’s safety or protect their property during a storm,” said Dalton. He explained it is unsafe to cross the Sanibel Causeway once the wind speed approaches 40 to 45 mph, which means emergency responders will not respond.
City Manager Dana Souza echoed the sentiment of council and Chief Dalton. He said the message to residents is to be prepared and evacuate when the mandatory order is issued, if not voluntarily. Read Souza’s letter to residents and businesses sent out Monday afternoon.