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Encore: 'Fort Myers Historic Hurricanes' is part history, part warning of SWFL's severe risk for flooding from a major storm

Water floods a damaged trailer park in Fort Myers, Fla., on Saturday after Hurricane Ian passed by the area.
Steve Helber
Water floods a damaged trailer park in Fort Myers, Fla., on Saturday after Hurricane Ian passed by the area.

The following episode originally aired on October 17, 2022.

We’re approaching the peak of the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane season so we’re revisiting a conversation we had on this show in October of 2022 about a new book that was just about to go to press when Ian hit Southwest Florida.

“Fort Myers Historic Hurricanes” is part history of hurricanes that have impacted southwest Florida, and part warning about this area’s severe risk from hurricanes and storm surge in general. It was still in pre-publication when we had this conversation. After Ian hit, Tom Hall and his publisher decided to wait to release the book around the storm’s one-year anniversary because they felt that’s when people would be thinking in terms of not only the storm, but also wanting to find answers as to why it was so devastating and whether we could experience a repeat with future storms. It’s now due to be released at the end of September around the anniversary of Hurricane Ian's landfall.

“Fort Myers Historic Hurricanes” opens with a hurricane in 1841 that swept across the region making landfall near Sanibel Island and bringing a 14-feet of storm surge to the U-S Army fort on Punta Rassa. It was after that devastating event that the Army looked further inland for a safer place to build a fort, which is effectively why Fort Myers is where it is today.

But, this new book also includes data on just how at risk we are to storm surge and inland flooding here in southwest Florida. Fort Myers ranks sixth in the entire nation when it comes to single-family residential homes that are at risk from storm surge – and fourth for storm surge risk to multifamily residences. Cape Coral is the most at-risk community in the United States for flooding -- that’s tops in a country that has more than 29,000 miles of coastline and 3.5 million miles of rivers.

Hall also wrote “Epic Fires of Fort Myers: How a Series of Early Fires Influenced the Town's Development.”

Tom Hall, co-author of "Fort Myers Historic Hurricanes," founder of ArtSWFL.com, and WGCU arts correspondent
WINK News Chief Meteorologist Matt Devitt who contributed to "Fort Myers Historic Hurricanes"