Tropical Storm Sally floods Sanibel, soaks Southwest Florida

Karl Schneider Fort Myers News-PressPublished 10:29 AM EDT Sep 15, 2020Following a waterlogged weekend, Southw

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Following a waterlogged weekend, Southwest Florida is expected to get a short reprieve from rainfall as waters recede from now Hurricane Sally.

The tropical storm drenched Collier and Lee counties over the weekend, leaving Sanibel under almost nine inches of rain and many other coastal neighborhoods with localized flooding that seemed to dissipate by Monday.

“This week is my 20th year as city manager and this is the first time I’ve seen fish on Tarpon Bay Road,” city manager Judie Zimomra said. “It was an extremely unprecedented event.”

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Sanibel on Sunday and a funnel cloud was spotted off the causeway hugging the Gulf, but Zimomra said they were lucky and the funnel stayed offshore.

The National Weather Service said it is still calculating rainfall totals for Lee and Collier counties from Tropical Storm Sally, but radar estimates show inland Lee County received between  2 – 4 inches, and Sanibel between 7 – 10 inches. Collier’s estimated totals from Saturday and Sunday show Naples received around 6 inches in the two-day period.

More of our coverage: Sally soaks Florida, expected to strengthen in Gulf

And: Still reeling from Hurricane Laura, Gulf Coast braces for Sally

Forecaster Steven Ippoliti at the weather service's Miami office said Collier would get a short break from rain Monday, but sea breeze-driven showers and storms could form again later in the week.

“We’ll get into typical Florida patterns for a few days here,” he said. “It could be a little drier on Wednesday and Thursday.”

Those rains won’t be directly associated with Sally, according to Rodney Wynn, a forecaster in with the weather service in Ruskin. The southerly winds will carry tropical moisture up toward Southwest Florida.

Those late-week storms could add to some troubles for Sanibel, which seemed to take the brunt of the rainfall over the weekend.

“We’re going to have a challenge because the ground is saturated,” Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane said. “We’ve never had so much water in such a short amount time, but I’m confident in our city manager and staff.”

Sanibel’s stormwater system worked hard through the weekend, maxing out at full capacity, Zimomra said.

“Almost every street, at one point, and every parking lot, at some point, were covered with water from 1 – 8 inches,” she said.

Large rain events can also pose a risk to wildlife, and Sanibel has about 70 sea turtle nests still incubating. Kelly Sloan, with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, said its team is still surveying any impacts the storm may have had on the nests.

“The stakes marking some nests were completely washed away,” she said in a statement. “So we will need to assess those using recorded GPS coordinates over the next couple of days before we have a full understanding of nest loss."

In Collier, the Big Cypress Basin lowered its primary canals in anticipation of the tropical storm, according to a basin report. The water levels in the canal system peaked around 6 p.m. Sunday and reached “almost normal levels” around 10 p.m.

Karl Schneider is an environment reporter. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @karlstartswithk, email him at

The latest: Tropics watch for Sept. 15

In case you missed it: Tropical Storm Sally brings tornado warning to SWFL
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