Naples recovers from hurricane damage, extends state of emergency

The Naples City Council unanimously agreed on Friday to extend the local state of emergency for Hurricane Ian for another seven days, the maximum time allowed by Florida regulations. The original statement made Tuesday expired after 72 hours.

“We’re in a tough situation and I need to start being very direct and candid about the situation on the ground,” said city manager Jay Budehshwar. “Our team of staff has been working 24/7. We have a group of people who didn’t sleep last night fighting house fires and dealing with faulty generators.”

Boodheshwar said the city’s system was offline due to power issues. “We are actively working to get back online,” he said. “The biggest issue right now is power. Everything we need to do depends on power.”

Many in southwest Florida remain without power since Hurricane Ian made catastrophic landfall on the Gulf Coast on Wednesday, leaving an estimated 2.7 million Floridians in the dark. As of Saturday afternoon, more than 35% of Collier County residents remained without power, and more than 60% of Lee County residents and 78% of Charlotte customers had not had power restored.

President Joe Biden approved the governor. Ron DeSantis requested a major disaster declaration authorizing FEMA to provide personal assistance to survivors in 13 Florida counties, including Charlotte, Collier and Lee. It also provides 100 percent federal funding for debris removal and emergency lifesaving measures in these counties for 30 days.

“It was a perfect storm,” said Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor, whose area includes the city of Naples, where she lives near Lake Park. “If the hurricane slows down, it’s moving away from us, if it’s moving away from us, it’s at high tide. The wind is coming from the south-southeast on the back of the hurricane. What happens is it aligns with high tide. The water and all the canals and everything is pushing into our area and that’s the problem. So, not only are there storms coming from the Gulf of Mexico and strong winds are pushing it, but there’s a south-southeast flow that’s really moving the Gulf water and the Climbing the river brings into at least my area and many others—River Park, 10th Street, downtown. It’s a mess. Along Gulfshore Boulevard north of the Drive, with cars in between, Because they float.”

While much of the flooding from extreme storm surges has now receded, widespread flooding remains for many coastal homes, businesses and vehicles. Newer homes are typically built at higher elevations and generally perform better than older homes, Taylor said. “Elevation issues separate undamaged homes from damaged homes,” she said. “You can’t argue with water. Impossible.”

The flooding was so severe that buildings in and around Naples suffered costly damage, as well as vehicles, pumping stations and equipment. Unimaginable flooding occurred on South Fifth Avenue in downtown Naples.

“Almost every institution has water in it. Cities, businesses and homes are flooded,” Boodheshwar said. “It will take weeks or even months to recover due to the damage caused by the flooding.”

The water was getting closer to the control panels of the city’s water treatment plant, resulting in a brief shutdown this week. Boodheshwar said flooded houses in low-lying areas would have some problems with backup, but the sewer plant was fully operational again. The city’s elevator stations are being vacuumed manually because of the power outage, while crews continue to clear city roads.

“Most of the vegetation remains unblocked. The biggest problem is standing water. The reason we have so much standing water on Bay Avenue is that we have a lot of sand in our sewer system,” Boodheshwar said, noting that more and more trucks are being pulled from the sewer. Sand and debris are sucked out of the system. “This will allow the water to drain. Remember, we have a gravity-based drainage system along the Gulf. Clearing these lines will allow it to enter the Gulf of Mexico.”

During the storm, city workers watched as water rose to the top floor of City Hall, opposite Campbell Park, where it was estimated to be submerged in four or five feet of water. “We had six feet of water around City Hall. It was literally a moat. We were stuck. We couldn’t get out,” Budhishwar said.

Park Shore Plaza and The Village Shops in Venetian Bay are the area’s flooded retail hubs. “One of our council members was in the front row and had a view of Gulf Avenue filling up, the waves weren’t on the beach, they were on the buildings because everything went ashore,” Boodheshwar said. And pointed out that the hurricane was definitely more of a water activity for Naples than a windy event.

“We had high winds. We had a lot of debris, but the roof wasn’t really ripped off,” he said. “It’s definitely a water activity, but it’s very windy. The title is water.”

Cities and counties west of the 41 U.S. states have been under precautionary boil water alerts until Friday, when all but Bay Avenue and the Strand in the Bay Colony enclave of Pelican Bay were lifted. The Collier 911 system was shut down Saturday morning. Residents needing emergency assistance are asked to call 252-9300 or text 911 until the system is operational again.

Boodheshwar said the city must clear up a rumor that made national news on Thursday, claiming that the historic Naples Pier has disappeared. While its frame still exists, much of the wooden structure has disappeared.

“The pier is badly damaged, it’s completely unsafe for anyone, and it’s closed indefinitely,” Boodheshwar said. “There are some major structural issues that need to be dealt with, but need to be fully assessed before we can start thinking about repairs or possible replacements. A good part of the structure is still there, but some buildings have disappeared.”

The fishing sheds and decks at the western end of the 1,000-foot urban landmark have completely disappeared, leaving only the pagoda-like roofs and gussets of the concession and restroom buildings in the middle of the pier. Most of the wooden railings and many of the deck planks are also gone. For more than a century, the bay has been a favorite destination for sightseers and anglers.

This is not the first time the wharf, originally built in 1888, will be rebuilt. It was also damaged by hurricanes in 1910, 1926 and 1960, each time requiring extensive rebuilding. A major redevelopment project in 2015 finally rebuilt the marina. Due to inflation and building supply issues, rebuilding the wharf today could easily cost twice as much as it did last time.

“The marina alone is going to be a lot of money. We have some rough numbers and we estimate the damage to vehicles, buildings and parks could be around $20 million. We’ll know more once the actual assessments and assessments start happening. ,” Boodheshwar said. “At this point, we’re not even talking about private homes and private businesses, which are going to be in the hundreds of millions.”

A lot of the sand from Naples’ famous beaches ends up in the streets of the city center, so it may not be possible to enjoy the attractions of the Gulf Shores at the moment. “We haven’t done a full assessment yet, but there is clear erosion,” Boodheshwar said.

“Lowdermilk Park is closed and will be closed for the foreseeable future. There is a lot of structural damage. The pavilion building is completely unsafe for anyone, so it will remain closed. The end of our beach is also closed. Now, It’s very, very unsafe. The ramps, the walkways, the stairs, they’re all destroyed, so we can’t put people in these dangerous situations. So, the beaches are over, the marina, the Lowdermilk Park, they’re all closed.”

As heartbreaking as the damage to Naples’ marina and beaches is, of course, it’s not the city’s top priority right now. “Right now, our focus is on really clearing the roads and making sure everything is safe so we can get traffic flowing and get people back home as quickly as possible,” Boodheshwar said. “Our priority at this point is real public safety,” he said. Say.

Important recovery necessities include safe drinking water, traffic control and debris removal. Public officials have gone all out since Tuesday.

“Our city team, these people are very engaged, they are there. Many of my employees have extensive damage to their homes and personal conditions, but they are here, they are working, trying to bring the city back together, ‘ said Budhishwar.

Boodheshwar, a former deputy mayor of Palm Beach on Florida’s east coast, started his new job in Naples this spring. He recently bought a home in Collier County, and his family is preparing to relocate from West Palm Beach next week. Although Boodheshwar has temporarily rented an apartment on Third Street, he has been sleeping in the office since Tuesday. “I did flood the apartment,” he said. “I can’t stay there anymore. I’m going to be in the office for a while.”

Days after the catastrophic event, Boodheshwar said the city and region would now go through different emotional stages. “This is when setbacks start to appear,” he said. “We need to be better versions of ourselves. We need to continue to support each other, we need to take care of our mental health. We need to support each other. This is a community effort. We all have to work together. It will take days, weeks or even months.

“We implore everyone to be patient. We’ll get through this as kids, but the next few days until we get power back up, it’s going to be tough.”

Boodheshwar remains confident that the community will be able to pull together this disaster. In fact, he doesn’t think record-breaking weather events will necessarily delay the region’s peak season or the return of seasonal residents to Collier County.

“At this point, we’re not going to encourage people to stick around. In fact, a lot of people are eager to come and see their properties and want to get back into town. We understand that,” he said. “I think when the season comes, we’ll be at the end of the season. Obviously, the docks won’t be rebuilt by then, but I’m very hopeful that we can get to some level of normalcy.”

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