Lee County officials face questions over the late Hurricane Ian evacuation order : NPR

Residents clear debris from Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, on Friday.

Giorgio Viera / AFP via Getty Images

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Giorgio Viera / AFP via Getty Images

Residents clear debris from Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, on Friday.

Giorgio Viera / AFP via Getty Images

At least 42 people have died in Lee County, one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Ian, where rescue and recovery efforts are still underway.

Local officials are now facing questions about why they didn’t urge people in the path of the devastating Category 4 storm to evacuate sooner.

Last Sunday – three days before the storm made landfall on the peninsula – the National Hurricane Center said that Ian can bring a storm surge of 4 to 7 feet from Englewood to Bonita Beach, including the entire coastal Lee County.

Follow county emergency management plan from 2018, even a 10% chance of a 6-foot high tide would be enough to prompt an evacuation of Area A. Includes barrier islands, coastline, and inland areas along the Caloosahatchee River.

But officials did not order a mandatory evacuation at the time, even as neighboring countries Charlotte County asks residents to go in Monday.

Instead, the Lee County government waited until Tuesday to conduct mandatory evacuations for those expected to be in the areas hardest hit by the storm.

Authorities for the first time ordered a mandatory evacuation of Zone A and parts of Zone B before it expand it includes all of Site B and portions of Site C.

It’s the same day as NHC raises storm tide forecast for Lee County 5 to 10 feet.

By Wednesday afternoon, Hurricane Ian land landing near Punta Gorda, just north of Lee County.

Florida officials defend evacuation decision a day before storm

Local authorities say the rapidly changing forecast in the days and hours before Hurricane Ian makes landfall on the peninsula makes it difficult to decide whether to order an evacuation.

County Commission Chairman Lee Cecil Pendergrass said in a Sunday press conference that a few days before the storm made landfall, the county was still outside “cone” Meteorologists use it to visually represent the path of a hurricane.

“70 hours before the storm hit, we were still not in the cone,” Pendergrass said. “We’re working with the data and getting rid of it.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also defended Lee County officials’ decision to order an evacuation as they did.

“But you know – 72 hours, they’re not even in the cone, 48 hours they’re in the periphery. So you have to make the best decision you can,” he said on Sunday.

However, the cone only shows the possible path of the center of the storm, according to NHCThis says that images are often misunderstood.

The agency says that hazardous weather conditions often occur outside the cone. The NHC also recommends that people not use cones to determine if they should evacuate. Instead, it suggests residents listen to their local emergency management agencies.

Kevin Ruane, a commissioner in Lee County, told New York Times that another problem the county faces Monday is that schools remain open even though they have also been designated as emergency shelters.

A plan document showing the difficulty of evacuating Lee County

County officials know that evacuating Lee County will not be easy.

One year 2015 Lee County Emergency Management document lays out the agency’s rationale for how it decides whether to issue an evacuation and also warns of specific challenges facing the region.

Due to its large population and limited road system, Southwest Florida was the most difficult to evacuate in the nation during a disaster, the document says.

The document goes on to say, when determining whether and how to evacuate residents who are willing and able to go, officials should consider the risks of evacuation, the intensity of the storm, and the extent of the impact. of evacuation for residents and businesses.

The county has also estimated the length of time it takes to evacuate residents under a number of different scenarios.

According to the document, it can take 20 hours to evacuate all of Blocks A, B, and C into emergency shelters in Lee County. That timeframe will increase “significantly” if residents attempt to leave the county altogether.


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