Closed SWFL environment: Parks and trails prohibited for foreseeable future after Hurricane Ian


Public lands in Lee and Collier counties managed by Florida and the South Florida Water Management District remain so dangerous more than two weeks after Hurricane Ian hit SWFL that they will remain closed in a foreseeable future.

Water District Chairman Chauncey Goss was in a helicopter Friday to examine drainage creeks and waterways designed to transport floodwater from populated areas like downtown Fort Myers to area bays. and the Gulf of Mexico.

“We’ve been working there for several years to make sure they open,” Goss said, with the help of cleanup crews. “We’ve avoided some flooding because of that.”

Floodwaters have collected in some debris-filled canals and creeks, and workers from water management districts are clearing those like Ten Mile Canal, which is a 20-mile man-made creek that flows south from the center -town of Fort Myers to Estero Bay. Next, workers will move to clear the Orange River and Daughtrey, Hickey and Telegraph creeks.

Still, litter on land and underwater creates such potential for injury and disease transmission that Goss said Friday it’s best to keep pubic areas out of the way.

The water management agency’s emergency operations center remains at level one, which is fully activated, even 15 days after Ian landed at Cayo Costa State Park.

Almost all Florida state parks, campgrounds and cabin facilities in Southwest Florida are closed due to often-crushing damage from Category 4 Hurricane Ian. Openings will be announced on each park’s website. advises outdoor enthusiasts to avoid all travel to the hardest hit outdoor areas in Everglades City, Marco Island, Naples, Estero, Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, Charlotte Harbor, Englewood, North Port and Venice.

However, public lands managed by the District of South Florida in Monroe, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Okeechobee, Highlands, Glades, Charlotte, Hendry, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties are open.

On the water

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is warning boaters of the deadly potential of all floating debris in canals, the Intracoastal Waterway, and large bodies of water like Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, and along the Gulf Coast. from Mexico. off Lee and Collier counties.

“We have damaged and submerged navigational beacons, displaced vessels and other debris in some waterways that may not be visible,” said Rob Beaton, chief of the agency’s navigation and waterways section. “Please exercise caution.”

Beaton said boaters should stay in port for now.

If there is a specific reason someone needs to be on the water, captains should go slow with extreme caution. A lookout, not the captain, should be in a safe place on the boat with his “head on a swivel” looking for floating trees, construction debris, building parts, vehicles, other boats and all the other stuff Hurricane Ian whipped up. .

And don’t hang around in hard-hit areas where rescuers are dealing with a situation. Florida law requires captains – whoever drives the boat is the captain; you don’t have to take a course to earn the title – sail within 300 feet of any emergency vessel when the emergency lights are on to maintain a slow speed with minimal wake, meaning the boat only moves a few miles per hour sending a wake that looks more like ripples in water.

Captains with excellent local knowledge or familiarity with certain waters should act as if they have never been there before. With many aids to navigation either missing or submerged, underwater quicksand has displaced shoals and created new shallow areas. The split end of a broken stake can stick up a few centimeters below the surface of the water.

Beaton also said that, even more importantly than normal, the captain and everyone on board should wear a closed or zipped lifejacket at all times, whether necessary or not. Being ejected from a ship and drowning is the number one cause of boating-related death – if the person is wearing a life jacket, their chances of survival increase dramatically.

Boaters are encouraged to report missing or damaged waterway markers by calling 866-405-2869, or by filling out an online form at, clicking “Waterway Management”, then ” Waterway markers” and “Report a damaged/missing waterway”. Markers.”

In water

The best bet right now is to stay out of the water.

The sewage pipes overflowed into the waterways. An overturned portable toilet spilled into floodwaters. Gasoline and motor oil leakage from partially submerged vehicles. Downed trees began to decay on the waterlogged roads.

This comes from Dave Tomasko of the Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program, who is the director of the organization. He saw all of this and more in the waters near North Port and other places in Sarasota County when he was on the water recently collecting data to determine if the water is safe for people.

After his tour, Tomasko said people should stay out of the water for health reasons.

“What’s in the water is pretty disgusting,” Tomasko told The Washington Post, which first reported his findings. “Our berries look like root beer right now. It smells terrible.

Since Ian landed on Sept. 28, Tomasko has received dozens of calls reporting overflows from the South Palmetto sewage treatment plants in Fort Myers.

The Post reported that Hurricane Ian left scars in the water as well as on land:

Winds from the storm and excessive rain washed leaves, organic matter and contaminants into waterways and bays, signaling the onset of serious environmental effects that could occur. Degraded water quality could damage aquatic ecosystems for weeks, months or longer and pose a short-term hazard to human health.

Images and video from space captured the extent of the runoff.

“The fact that you can see it from a satellite is pretty impressive compared to the amount of fresh water coming out of the landscape,” Todd Osborne, a biogeochemist at the University of Florida, told the Post. “It’s all that excessive rain that’s flushing this material out into near-shore waters…and the storm surge that’s flooding the landscape, kicking up a lot of sediment, and then flowing back into the ocean.”

The Florida Medical Examiners Commission said Friday night that there are now 109 deaths attributed to Hurricane Ian. Fifty-four people died in Lee County and seven each in Sarasota, Charlotte and Monroe counties. Five people died in Collier County, two in Hendry County and one in DeSoto County.

Environmental Reporting for WGCU is funded in part by the VoLo Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate global change and impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, improving education and improving health.

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