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Emergency Management urges residents to use caution

By Staff | Oct 18, 2011

TALLAHASSEE The Florida Division of Emergency Management with local emergency management officials are advising all residents and visitors across Florida to exercise caution as a strong storm system brings the potential for severe weather and flooding conditions into the state through Wednesday.

“The combination of a northward moving warm front, a tropical low pressure system moving across the state from the Gulf of Mexico and an approaching cold front may bring heavy rainfall, gusty winds and rough ocean conditions into the Florida Big Bend, Florida Peninsula and Florida Keys through Wednesday night,” said Amy Godsey, state meteorologist. “Even unnamed systems can bring the same hazards as tropical cyclones and we encourage all residents and visitors to monitor their All-Hazards Weather Radios, avoid driving in flooded areas and to remember to check the rip current forecast for their area.”

The Storm Prediction Center has placed all of Central and South Florida, as well as the eastern Big Bend and Northeast Florida, in a slight risk area for severe weather on Tuesday and Tuesday night. This includes the potential for damaging winds in strong thunderstorms and isolated tornadoes.

Rainfall amounts are forecast to be between 1 and 4 inches across much of the Florida Peninsula through late Wednesday. These heavy rains may cause localized flooding in rivers, low-lying areas and on roadways, especially in areas that received a significant amount of rainfall earlier this month.

Never underestimate the power of water. It only takes a foot of moving water to push a car off the road. For pedestrians, just 6 inches of fast-moving floodwater can knock a person off their feet. If flooded roadways are encountered, remember it is always best to “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!”

Strong onshore winds will bring a moderate to high risk of rip currents to all Atlantic beaches beginning Tuesday and these same conditions will cause a moderate to high risk along many Gulf Coast beaches. The strong onshore winds and ocean swells will also increase the chance of beach erosion and minor tidal flooding near high tide along some beaches. For boaters, these high winds can also cause large swells and rough conditions, and Small Craft Advisories and Gale warnings are in effect for many of Florida’s coastal waters.

A rip current is a narrow, powerful current of water that runs perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean. These currents may extend 200 to 2,500 feet (61 to 762 meters) lengthwise, but they are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Also, rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) or faster and are not always identifiable to the average beachgoer.

To avoid getting caught in a flood, follow these safety rules:

NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio is one of the best ways to receive warnings from the National Weather Service. Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio or your favorite news source for vital weather-related information.

If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding, including dips, low spots, canals, ditches, etc.

Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams.

Road beds may be washed out under flood waters. NEVER drive through flooded roadways.

Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.

Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

When at the beach:

Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.

Learn the rip current warning flag system and know what the colors mean.

Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches.

Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to identify hazards.

Ask a lifeguard about the conditions before entering the water. This is part of their job.

Learn how to swim in the surf. It’s not the same as swimming in a pool or lake. Also, never swim alone.

Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist alongside these structures.

Consider using polarized sunglasses when at the beach. They will help you to spot signatures of rip currents by cutting down glare and reflected sunlight off the ocean’s surface.

Pay especially close attention to children and persons who are elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.

If caught in a rip current:

Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.

Never fight against the current.

Think of a rip current like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.

Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle–away from the current–towards shore.

If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.

If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.

If you see someone in trouble, don’t become a victim too:

Get help from a lifeguard.

If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.

Throw the rip current victim something that floats–a lifejacket, a cooler, an inflatable ball.

Yell instructions on how to escape.

Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.

Follow safe boating practices:

Have a VHF Marine Band Radio and NOAA Weather Radio on board.

Check the marine forecast well ahead of time.

Know the limitations of your boat. If small craft advisories or gale warnings are issued, you should postpone travel.

Be sure everyone aboard is wearing a life jacket.

File a float plan at your marina.

Thunderstorms and weather-related hazards form quickly. Never let these storms cut off your route back to land.

Residents and visitors who want to learn more about rip currents can visit www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov. Boaters can go to www.srh.noaa.gov/wml to check the current marine conditions and updated forecasts. For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/FLSERT and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FloridaSERT.