Shelter From The Storm – Shell Point’s Shelter Provided Safe Haven During Hurricane Season


Shell Point staff Sherry Brown and Lynda Berger count their blessings after a long two days.

FORT MYERS – In August, Hurricane Charley came ashore in Southwest Florida, causing extensive damage throughout the area. But residents of Shell Point were out of harm’s way, thanks to the multi-million dollar shelter provided for just this purpose.

Their port in any storm is the facility’s employee parking garage, which works overtime as a hurricane shelter – built strong enough to withstand a Category Five storm, with winds up to and beyond 200 mph.

While Hurricane Charley advanced, the management team of Shell Point was putting its hurricane plan into action. “We knew this was a fast approaching storm and had the potential to come ashore right at our location,” said Peter Dys, president of Shell Point. “For two days we watched the storm, while moving the pieces into place that would be required if it hit us.”

Medical supplies, food supplies, water, and equipment were set up in the second floor of the shelter, which is above anticipated storm-surge levels.

“By late Thursday evening, we knew the storm was going to hit and we prepared for the worst,” said Dys.

“Throughout the early morning hours, we evacuated our residents, starting with the skilled nursing center, then assisted living and finally, as the storm grew ever closer, our independent residents.”

In addition to the more than 1,100 residents who took shelter in the building, Shell Point staff also moved in, many with their families.

“We have a committed staff here at Shell Point. Well over one hundred staff, plus three medical doctors, two nurse practitioners, and a cadre of nursing staff were on hand during the event.”

“As the storm shook buildings all over the island community, residents in the shelter were being fed meals and cared for.”

Shell Point President Peter Dys and assistant Cindy O’Grady read through the many thank-you letters from residents.

Once the storm passed, residents returned to their homes and immediate clean-up throughout the community began to occur. Staff who had remained in the shelter during the storm went home and a second group of staff returned to work to begin the arduous task of restoration.

Downed trees, debris, broken utility poles, demolished vehicles, and damaged buildings required immediate attention. “Our staff worked ’round the clock to get this community back into shape,” said Dys.

More than a week following the storm, residents were still talking about their “adventure” and expressing gratitude for the safety and protection of the shelter.

“I have a stack of more than 100 letters signed by hundreds of residents and their family members, that poured into my office during the days after the storm, “said Dys. “It is gratifying to know that we were there for these people at the time they needed us most.”

Shell Point’s hurricane shelter provided safe haven during Florida’s 2004 hurricane season.

About the Shelter
When Shell Point decided to build a dual purpose building to serve as a parking garage and a hurricane shelter, it required extensive design and engineering. Its foundation is made of precast concrete piles driven into bearing soils approximately 65 to 70 feet below grade. Precast concrete elevated floor and roof slabs and precast beams, columns, and shearwalls provide a durable, low maintenance parking garage and a strong, impact resistant hurricane structure.

The storm shutters and doors are made of aluminum and stainless steel, with all stainless fasteners, which bolt in place to seal off the building from wind, rain, and flying debris. One inch thick rubber gaskets around the panels seal any cracks around the frames. To prevent leakage, the roof was coated with 1,400 gallons of roof coating material, while 215 gallons of caulking was used. All mechanical equipment, including the emergency generator and rooftop exhaust fans, are protected with precast concrete shrouds for intake and exhaust.

The generator has 1,000 gallons of fuel capacity and will burn about six gallons per hour at a 70 percent load for one full week of operation. Coupled with emergency food and water supplies, the shelter provides the safest environment possible for Shell Point’s residents.

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