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Isaac storms by Beach with light impact

August 28, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

What was projected to become Hurricane Isaac by the time it reached this part of Southwest Florida Monday morning remained a tropical storm and well offshore as it past Fort Myers Beach. On Tuesday, the storm was traveling slow at 7 MPH just north of Tampa with 70 MPH winds and a projected path towards the west side of New Orleans.

A mandatory evacuation was lifted just a few hours after it was issued. While many businesses along Estero Boulevard remained closed throughout much of the day, including Town Hall, residents and visitors took to the beachfront to witness high winds, bands of rain and crashing waves.

Beach resident Lynn Miller and son, Jesse, were curious about the action on the Beach Pier near the Times Square area.

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The sea wall at Newton Park was no contest for the storm surge created by Tropical Storm Isaac shortly after high tide on Monday morning.

"The waves were really big down by our beach access at Dakota Street, so we wanted to come up here and see what it was like," she said. "We went out there, but it was way to windy (by the end of the pier). It was almost knocking me down. The waves that were breaking in were actually spraying my legs. It was kind of scary."

Cindy McColgan, a 10-year resident of Cape Coral, visited the beach while on a morning drive to see what type of waves Isaac had created. There was free parking at Lynn Hall Park. All of the pay stations were wrapped up in plastic.

"We are originally from South New Jersey, so we are used to waves like this," she said. "It usually isn't like this here. This is unusual."

Also atypical were the flooded streets caused by the storm surge right after the 9:30 a.m. high tide. The low-lying areas on the eastern sections of Old San Carlos Boulevard and Crescent Street as well as all of Third, Fourth and Fifth streets were heavily under water -at some points clearing soaking the under carriage of most vehicles- and not recommended for driving on. Salt water from the Back Bay rose over the sea walls and created the flooding in that instance.

According the Lee County Emergency Management, residents and visitors were urged to exercise extreme caution when crossing bridges or driving along coastal and low-lying roads.

Tides were two to four feet higher than normal throughout the storm cycle and storm surges were expected to be within three to five feet.

"We certainly had high than normal tides, but it'll take a while to see what level they were," said Gerald Campbell, chief of planning for Lee County Emergency Management. "High tides should be returning to normal on Wednesday."

There are some comparisons to the prior tropical storm that passed by Southwest Florida in June.

"We think we probably saw a little more water in some areas than Debby. But it was very similar to Tropical Storm Debby," said Campbell.

Monday storm surges were affecting side streets and other areas by the Gulf as well. Miramar Street from Estero Boulevard to its beach access was under water and the sea wall and staircases at Newton Park and other accesses were being impacted by strong waves.

The latest storm surge caused by Tropical Storm Isaac is also affecting sea turtle nesting season. The storm occurred about the same time as a second hatching cycle on Fort Myers Beach and almost exactly two months after waves by Tropical Storm Debby swept away a lot of nests.

"It's not as doom and gloom as we first thought," said Turtle Time founder Eve Haverfield Tuesday morning. She stated her volunteers have been able to check out a lot of nests by beach accesses on Fort Myers Beach but have not been able to do too much damage control on Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area due to flooding.

Of the 65 nests on the Beach, 44 were expected to be lost between the two storms. As of Tuesday morning, eight nests have hatched and 13 are still being monitored.

"Last night, we had a nest in Zone 6 that hatched. We had given up on it, because it had been under water for three days," said Haverfield. "Out of 118 eggs, 40 hatchlings made it successfully."

Overall, the path of Tropical Storm Isaac may not have been as damaging as its predecessor. Being 150 miles offshore helped.



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