Make preparations now for active hurricane season
Don’t be “that guy” who doesn’t know where to go. Don’t be “that guy” who doesn’t have a plan. And don’t be “that guy” who has to spell out “HELP!” using coconuts in the sand.
“We will make every effort to have everybody back, safe and here after a hurricane,” said City Manager Judie Zimomra, speaking during last week’s first Hurricane Seminar held at BIG Arts. “The most important thing you can do is be prepared.”
About 65 residents and business owners gathered at Schein Hall on June 1 to listen to Zimomra and other officials speak about making emergency plans well in advance of any severe weather event predicted to impact Southwest Florida during the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, which will continue through Nov. 30.
“Our sole purpose today is to stress to everyone to be prepared,” added Dave Roberts, the City of Sanibel’s official weather consultant. “The ‘panic factor’ is something we don’t want to see.”
Unfortunately, Roberts stated, most people will not have an evacuation plan in place by the time a storm watch or warning is issued.
During his presentation, Roberts discussed the predictions made by Dr. William Gray and Phil Klotzbach, the nation’s leading hurricane forecasters from Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science. They have predicted nine hurricanes this season, of which five are estimated to become major hurricanes.
Gray and Klotzbach, who have collaborated on hurricane forecasting for the past 11 years, also predicted a total of 80 named storm days.
“We don’t get hurricanes that often,” explained Roberts, who stated that statistically speaking, Southwest Florida is directly impacted by a hurricane every 10 years. “But when we do, they tend to be doozies.”
In 2004, when Hurricane Charley passed over the island, the eye of that storm was small but very intense.
“The actual odds of getting a hurricane are 10 percent or less, but the probability of experiencing a hurricane is significantly higher than that because we live in an area known as ‘Hurricane Alley,'” Roberts said. “That’s the price we pay for living in paradise.”
Sanibel’s “peak” of hurricane season is on or around Sept. 10, although any time the water temperatures are warm, the chances of a tropical storm escalating into something stronger are increased.
“This is one of the few places that you have to get out of the water to cool off,” he added.
Matt Scott, Assistant Chief for the Sanibel Fire Rescue District, stressed that residents “plan and prepare” for a storm, make an evacuation plan, and share that plan with family friends and neighbors.
“You are the person most responsible for your own safety,” stated Gerald Campbell, head of the Lee County Emergency Planning Department. “Most people’s plans are ‘Hope for the best’ — we call those people ‘victims.'”
Campbell suggested that people utilize the latest technology — computers, cell phones, iPads and other mobile electronic communication devices — in order to share information before, during and after a storm. He noted that the Lee County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) sends messages via their website, Facebook, Twitter and SMS text messages.
“It’s more important than ever to listen to emergency officials,” Campbell stressed. “If you don’t listen, then you’re truly betting your life that you are better informed than they are.”
Zimomra also suggested residents and business owners monitor the city’s website — www.MySanibel.com — where vital information is posted throughout weather-related emergencies. There is also an option to sign up for mobile alerts send to your cell phone.
In addition to the speakers, a number of information booths were stationed around the facility during the 70-minute seminar. Handouts included the EOC All Hazards Guide, FEMA and American Red Cross brochures, shelter locations and special needs planning guides.
Harold Law, Building Official for the City of Sanibel, also offered tips on saving money on home insurance by installing hurricane-grade windows and roof treatments.
In addition, Zimomra suggested solar-powered chargers for essential electronic devices. Tomlinson also shared the city’s information hotline — 1-800-933-6093 — which will be activated in case of a severe weather event or should an evacuation of the island be issued.
However, the most common message shared during the seminar was planning as far in advance as possible for anything Mother Nature may send our way.
“Don’t be ‘that guy’ when a hurricane is coming,” added Zimomra. “Make an emergency kit, have an evacuation plan and be informed.”