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Collier County Tallies $320 Million of Estimated Damage From Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma left about 4.2 million cubic yards of fallen trees, torn branches and broken fences scattered on roads, yards and roofs throughout the county.

(TNS) - There's enough debris that has been dragged, raked and piled up into mini-mountains on the sides of roads throughout Collier County to overflow the Great Pyramid of Giza and build another pyramid about a third of its size.

Hurricane Irma left about 4.2 million cubic yards of fallen trees, torn branches and broken fences scattered on roads, yards and roofs throughout Collier County, said Dan Rodriguez, deputy director of county utilities who is in charge of collecting the debris.

That dwarfs the 1.2 million cubic yards of debris left in the wake of Hurricane Wilma in 2005. It could take four to six months to remove all of it and chop it into mulch.

Collier County commissioners met Tuesday for the first time since the storm laid waste to much of Everglades City, Immokalee and mobile home parks in East Naples and North Naples. They began to get early tallies and estimates of the damage done by the storm and brace for the cost and long slog of cleaning it up.

After Wilma the county spent $26 million clearing storm debris, said Mark Isackson, budget director.

"So do the math and you're staring at $100 million with this particular event," Isackson said.

That cost, along with the cost of overtime, equipment and supplies used by the county and first responders during the storm, will be eligible for reimbursement with federal disaster dollars.

The county and the Federal Emergency Management Agency still don't know how many people have been left homeless or have been displaced by the storm.

There were still 20 people staying at the last open public shelter in Immokalee and 112 people at the shelter in North Collier Regional Park as of Tuesday, said Dan Summers, director of the county's emergency operations center.

"We're working hard to help get those residents back home, out of the shelter and back into their regular routine," Summers said.

Local officials and FEMA inspectors don’t have a plan to provide the displaced with temporary housing.

In the meantime dozens of families and children are living in tents or condemned or destroyed mobile homes that have lost roofs or walls, were drenched in floodwaters or are reeking of mold, the Naples Daily News has found.

The county has not yet asked FEMA to provide temporary trailers or manufactured housing. That request will be made through the state and will only be made if FEMA and the county can't find hotel rooms or places for the displaced to rent, Summers said.

"Our goal is not to get people into temporary trailers," he said. "Rental units and hotels offer a far better quality of life for the people and are far more cost-effective."

Summers couldn't say how long it may take to study the housing situation before the request for temporary trailers will be made.

"Part of the problem is you’ve got 60 counties in Florida all drawing federal resources, along with five other federally declared disasters, plus Harvey and plus Maria," Summers said. "Resources are thin."

More than 45,700 people in Collier had applied for assistance from FEMA, Summers said. That includes more than 17,000 people who have applied for transitional housing assistance. FEMA has so far helped set up 169 residents in hotel stays, Summers said.

Sixty-five homes, included 44 mobile homes, were destroyed in the unincorporated county, according to estimates from the county's growth management department. Another 1,008 homes suffered major damage, defined as more than 60 percent of a home's value.

When it is all added up, the storm will likely have caused about $320 million in damage to public and private property in the unincorporated county, said Jamie French, deputy director of the growth management department.

Everglades City, the hardest hit area, has estimated that nearly every building inside city limits was damaged in the storm. The city said 23 buildings were destroyed and that another 517 suffered major damage.

"There are only 630, maybe 650 addresses in Everglades City," French said. "It's safe to say a good majority of that island was impacted."

Commissioners unanimously voted to provide Everglades City with up to $250,000 worth of staff time and money to help repair infrastructure and organize recovery efforts. Any money that isn't reimbursed through federal disaster dollars will be repaid by the city, according to the approved agreement.


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