Fort Myers Hospital Restoration Project Performs Well During Storm


Hurricane Irma struck Florida in September 2017, causing extensive damage in many parts of the state. Hurricane Irma's 185 mph maximum winds continued for more than 37 hours — the longest any cyclone on record to maintain that intensity. Sixty-five percent of the state was without power immediately after the storm including 6.5 million homes and businesses.

Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers felt Irma’s intensity. Hurricane-forced winds damaged an elevator, its components and the metal siding and flashing on the roof top elevator enclosure as well as exterior signs attached to the hospital’s buildings.


Founded in 1916, Lee Memorial Hospital is Lee Health System’s first and oldest hospital.

It has 414 licensed beds, including 336-bed acute care unit, 60-bed rehabilitation unit and 18-bed skilled nursing unit, as well as Florida State University College of Medicine Family Medicine Residency Program at Lee Health.

Comprised of four acute care hospitals, Lee Health Systems reported Lee Memorial Hospital, then 101 years old, received the costliest damage during Hurricane Irma. Hurricane force winds and rain damaged the exterior wall of the building housing elevator #8 and its components. Signs for Lee Memorial Hospital, Medical, Office, and Center were blown down.

Repair work funded by the FEMA’s Public Assistance Program included mitigation to protect the elevator from future hazards. The work was successful. During Hurricane Ian in September 2022, the elevator continued operating while other elevators were not functional. The damage in 2017(?) and the grant for repairs was $441,618. The Public Assistance grant provided 90% of the federal cost share and the non-federal cost share was $37,323.

The project included replacing signs, replacing Elevator #8 door and hoist-way equipment, replacing fire signage and wiring, handrails, braille plates, in-car lanterns and chime, operating panel, transformer lines, landing position indicator, red emergency pit stop indication, remote monitoring system, access key switch and hands-free telephone.

FEMA has published a technical bulletin that provides information on the Elevator Installation for Buildings Located in Special Flood Hazard Areas in Accordance with the National Flood Insurance Program to reduce flood damages.

Funds for the project were authorized under Sections 403 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Recovery Act.  FEMA’s Public Assistance program is an essential source of funding for communities recovering from a federally declared disaster or emergency. The Florida Division of Emergency Management works with FEMA during all phases of FEMA-funded projects and conducts final reviews of approved projects.

Applicants work directly with FEMA to develop project worksheets and scopes of work. Following approvals by FEMA and the state’s emergency management officials, FEMA obligates funding for the project. The federal share for Public Assistance projects is 75% of the eligible cost. The state determines how the non-federal share of the cost of a project, up to 25%, is split with the subrecipients.  

The benefits of the project were evident in Hurricane Ian.        

In September 2022, Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, struck Fort Myers with wind gusts of 150 mph leaving destruction.                         

“This storm was almost a repeat of Hurricane Irma for us, here at Lee Memorial, but worse,” said the Director of Plant Operations. “Basically, the same thing happened to Service Elevators # 9, 10 and 11, that had happened to Elevator #8 during Irma. Also, there was water intrusion to five of the patients’ windows and damage to the kitchen and eighth floor roofs.”

As a precaution, patients were moved into the hallways away from windows. The hospital operated at full capacity. While the other elevators were down, Elevator #8 was fully functional, and signs remained attached to buildings.

The hospital plans to seek federal funding in repairing/replacing the elevators that were damaged during Hurricane Ian.

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