ESTERO, Fla. — Many of the 4,000 or so people who spent the past two nights in the massive and crowded Germain Arena in this southwestern Florida town left at dawn Monday, only to find their cars flooded and the streets overfilled with water.
One young woman in a subcompact car got as far as one block from the main and passable Corkscrew Road, only to have her engine stop amid two feet of standing water. An older man in a Vietnam Veterans ball cap got out of his Oldsmobile to help push her out of an intersection — but then found himself stuck, afraid to come off a wet median strip and into the lake.
“We’re all in the same boat here,” he said, identifying himself only as John from Fort Myers. “The shelter was as good as can be expected, chaotic at times. But people helped each other.”
Lee County authorities said its 14 shelters housed more than 32,000 people during Hurricane Irma. It closed 10 of its 14 shelters Monday. People who still needed places to stay will be brought to the four remaining sites, including Germain Arena. A decision has not been made about how long those sites will accept people seeking shelter.