Southwest Florida, where Hurricane Irma made landfall last September, has the biggest regional shortage of storm shelters in Florida, according to the state government.
The six-county region should have 123,000 additional shelter spaces that meet Red Cross standards.
That is the largest shortage of shelter space among 10 regions of Florida, and eight times bigger than the second largest.
That assessment was part of a statewide emergency management plan released by the state Division of Emergency Management. The state agency updates the plan every two years.
The updated plan identified the state’s largest countywide shortages of shelter space in Lee and Collier counties, four of the six counties in Southwest Florida.
Lee ranked first statewide with a shortage of 71,000 shelter spaces and Collier ranked second with 24,200.
After Hurricane Irma made landfall as a Category 3 storm on Marco Island and moved up the southwest coast, storm shelters in Collier quickly filled, leading some evacuees to seek shelters outside the county.
Twenty-nine schools, the primary source of storm shelters in Collier, housed 17,000 evacuees after Irma blew through, with wind gusts over 140 miles per hour, more than 10 inches of rain, and storm surges of four to five feet.
Rick Schofield, a divisional director of the Southeast and Caribbean for the American Red Cross, told the Naples Daily News that the city lacks natural defenses against strong storms.
“I know one of the problems in Naples is just that the storm surge goes in so far,” Schofield told the newspaper. “There’s nothing against anybody, against Naples. It’s just the geography.” [Naples Daily News] – Mike Seemuth