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Happy sailing, January

Did the rainy month send FMB down the river?

February 3, 2016
By John Morton - Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

January 2016 is in the books, but as forgettable as it was it won't soon be forgotten.

It started with 83 degrees New Year's Day on Fort Myers Beach, but by its end the month had endured a record 14.16 inches of rainfall, including flooding that in many areas on Jan. 28 finally saw water reach over Estero Boulevard's crown and go all the way across.

The town was the wettest of all Lee County municipalities last month, and saw two days (Jan. 15 and Jan. 27) that had rainfall exceed 3 inches.

Article Photos

Road workers on Estero Boulevard had to toil alongside standing water throughout much of the month, including a rainy Jan. 28 while installing a waterline connection across from Gulf Beach Road.

And twice winds neared hurricane levels, with a suspected waterspout doing damage on Jan. 9.

All this was coupled with a cold spell that sent low temperatures hovering close to the 30s for about a week, with lows reaching 41 and 42 on consecutive days.

Then there was the ongoing construction-related car congestion that often has cars at a standstill, not only on the island, but backed up to Summerlin Road.

So, has Fort Myers Beach received a black eye in the view of its visitors?

"No, it's just the way it is. And it's still better than being in northeastern Indiana," said first-time visitor Judy Troll, who was bundled up to her chin during the noon hour on Jan. 28 while browsing the Santini Plaza market with friend Kay Armstrong.

"Your beach is so nice here, and that's what counts most," said Armstrong. "We're here through Feb. 29, so we're certain it will improve."

And it did, as warm temperatures broke through last weekend for the month's final two days - almost as if to apologize.

"We forgive," said Armstrong.

Bud Nocera, president of the Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, believes tourists are giving the town a mulligan.

"We haven't heard anything from our visitors about the rain - I'm certain they understand this is an anomaly for January and is due to this being an El Nino year," he said. "And our accommodations are reporting that not only was this a good January and they're going into the season strong, but they're already seeing reservations for next year."

Things weren't ideal for anyone this month, especially the construction workers for both the town and county as they worked in unison on the Estero Boulevard Improvements Project.

Did the rain slow things down?

"No, not at all," said Rick Ohadley, a foreman overseeing waterline work for the town. "It's rained every week, but there have been enough dry days in between. We're actually ahead of schedule."

And how about morale?

"Morale is good," he said. "The guys hate the rain, of course, but they like the work because it means money."

Anel Marc has been working with a construction crew since the project's inception last fall.

"It's been a little difficult with the rain because you have a little trouble compacting the dirt and keeping things in place, but nothing too bad," he said. "We're getting dirty no matter what."

Finally, Don Stilwell, the town's manager, said his public works people "did an extraordinary job" keeping up with requests from residents to pick up debris from both roadsides and the beach.

He said he had to spend a few Tourist Development Council dollars for outside cleanup help, but otherwise his existing staff handled the duties.

As for public property, no significant damage occurred, Stilwell said.

He did, however, acknowledge the dire conditions many residents on side streets faced after the storms.

"We got a lot of calls from people in a panic and I don't want to make light of that," Stilwell said. "Some were really pretty bad."



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