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Lee After-Action Report on Ian released; shelter staffing cited

Cots cover the floor of Hertz Arena, an ice hockey venue that has been transformed into a massive relief shelter, in Estero, Fla., on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. More than 500 people were still housed at the arena more than a week after Hurricane Ian struck the Southwest Florida coast.
Jay Reeves/AP
Cots cover the floor of Hertz Arena, an ice hockey venue transformed into a massive relief shelter, in Estero, Fla., after Hurricane Ian.

Lee County encountered several challenges when it opened hurricane shelters after calling for mandatory evacuations in flood-prone areas a day before Hurricane Ian made landfall in September 2022.

That aspect was among information in the Lee County Hurricane Ian After-Action Report, a review of the County’s preparedness, response and recovery efforts, released this week and presented at Tuesday's Board of County Commissioners meeting.

The scope of the After-Action Report focuses on countywide operations and does not cover department-specific operations pertaining to Hurricane Ian. Observations and recommendations in the report are intended to contribute to Lee County’s preparedness and readiness for future storm events.

A private group spent months assessing what went right and what went wrong in Lee County with regards to Ian, outlined in the report.


Ian made landfall on Cayo Costa, a Lee County barrier island, at 3:05 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28 as a Category 4 hurricane. With $112 billion in damages, it is the third costliest hurricane to date to make landfall in the United States behind Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Harvey (2017).

The After-Action Report focused on broad, policy-level issues or operational problems encountered as a result of the impact of Hurricane Ian.

A Lee County government release said that, due to the size and scope of the disaster, the After-Action Report is not meant to include all operational and or departmental challenges and does not document County department-level issues, adjustments and improvements taken during or after the event.

The report does include an executive summary, an overview of the storm with a timeline and a by-the-numbers look at the response.

Among the findings were matters involving staff unable to get to the Lee Shelters in time. Because of this, untrained individuals were called to step in. The report also found that the notification system for shelter staff provided incorrect shift times resulting in even more staffing gaps.

The mandatory evacuation orders in flood Zones A and B. More than 450,000 individuals live in those zones.

The report says that in addition to staffing challenges, there were difficulties coordinating with owners of shelters that are not associated with the school district of Lee County.

Since Hurricane Ian, the county has explored contracting shelter operations to a third-party vendor, the report says.

A link to the After-Action Reportcan be found at WGCU.org.

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