Hurricane Irma: Collier County reports 'miracle' of no fatalities

A grill lays in the road on CR 29 on the drive into Everglades City on Sept. 11 after Hurricane Irma.

No fatalities in Collier County have yet been reported as emergency and rescue crews continue to sift through debris and move fallen power lines.

“That’s a miracle,” Dan Summers, director of the Bureau of Emergency Services said early Friday morning. “It’s an absolute miracle.”

Emergency vehicles are still out in Immokalee, East Naples, Marco Island, Golden Gate Estates and other areas of the county trying to get into buildings and homes that didn’t survive the storm.

“We’re still checking,” Summers said.

More: Monday updates: More than 580,000 await power in Collier, Lee

More: Landfall on Marco devastates the island, rescues underway

Trailers and RVs have been wrenched apart. As the sun broke over soft clouds, broken water mains sprayed into the air like 12-foot fountains. Trees and power poles barricaded driveways and neighborhoods. Men climbed on top of their cars with chainsaws to cut down the trees that had toppled over them.

Residents were not allowed to return to Marco Island as of 9 a.m. because of flooding of the roads and potential damage to bridges.

Crews are still tallying and surveying the damage in Marco Island, Immokalee and other parts of the county that fared the worst to either flooding or wind, Summers said.

“It’s very difficult to say what the damage is,” he said. “We know we’ve lost structures. We know we’ve lost roofs. It may take us two, three, four days to scout the county the county to get a good handle.”

Few, if any, intersections in Collier County had power as of 9 a.m.

The size of Hurricane Irma has made it tough to bring resources and help to the Naples area.

Because the entire state of Florida was bracing for impact, Collier can't just grab water, tools, crews and other aid from one or two counties over, Summers said.

"Everything from the Panhandle of Florida, including Georgia and South Carolina that they can spare from the path of this storm is moving this way," he said.

The county is still urging, begging, residents to stay off roads and in shelters while crews open the streets.

Phone system failures have been common throughout the county. The 911 system is and has been operating throughout the storm. 

Extensive damage was done to the county's sprawling sewage and drinking water system. Broken water mains caused the system to lose water pressure, which put the quality of the water at risk. The county has issued a boil water notice to all of the 300,000-plus residents who are connected to the water system throughout the unincorporated county.

The focus now is to clear roads, starting from hospitals and working to major corridors, Summers said.

Eighty to 90 intersections in the county still have significant barriers needed to be cleared and require evaluation, he said.

“We’ve been working throughout the night, but there was very little we could do last night in total darkness with water ponding to get some of the intersections and roads cleared,” he said.

The sheer size of the water district, with nearly 1,000 miles of pipes, will take time to address the damage.

More than 93 percent of the county remained without power.

There was still very little gas in Collier County, and almost no retailers had opened their doors.

"This is going to be a marathon," Summers said. "Please give us time. Little steps are what is going to put this community together."