Storm watch: Officials on alert as Isaac moves NW
With Isaac churning in the waters south of Florida, local authorities have taken a prepare-and-watch attitude and suggest citizens do the same.
As of Friday, Cape Coral and Lee County officials continued to track the tropical storm, with plans to monitor the mass over the next few days.
“It has continued to shift to the west, which is good for our standpoint because it means that the storm may pass us – it may pass us farther away,” Connie Barron, the city’s spokeswoman, said Friday afternoon.
“We still have at least another 24 hours to follow the track,” she said. “Right now we’re optimist the impact to Cape Coral will not be too severe.”
John Wilson, the director of Lee County public safety, echoed that.
“There’s still a quite of bit of uncertainty about what the storm is going to do,” he said. “But the forecast looks encouraging for us.”
In a proactive move, county officials decided to declare a local state of emergency Friday in case Isaac has any serious impacts to the area.
“We’ll have the mechanism in place to take quick action,” Wilson said.
“Our major concern is some coastal impacts, squally weather and perhaps some extensive rainfall that might cause some stormwater flooding later on in the week,” he said. “Those are the hazards that we’re focusing on.”
As of Friday, there were no plans to shut down any of the county facilities and Lee County public schools were planning to be open Monday as usual. The decision on whether to close the schools will be made by Sunday afternoon.
The city started securing its facilities and fleet operations Thursday. City employees, specifically public safety and public works, were placed on alert.
“At this point, we have not closed any city facilities,” Barron said Friday.
The city council’s budget workshop set for Monday is still planned.
“Even if residents can’t make it down, people can watch it at home,” she said, explaining that the workshop will be broadcast from council chambers.
Cape emergency officials were to meet again this morning to regroup.
“If we’re starting to prepare, we would encourage our residents to do the same,” Barron said. “Prepare as if – prepare as if it’s coming our way.”
Residents are asked to stay indoors during the storm, and should be aware that there is a possibility of power outages and tropical storm force winds.
“Make sure they bring in any items that might be out on their lanai – lawn furniture or patio furniture,” she said.
Trash and items should not be placed on the curb for pick up before the storm passes, especially anything that can become airborne in the winds.
“Keep them secured and out of the weather,” Barron said.
Keith Banasiak, regional vice president of Waste Pro, reported Friday that Lee County Solid Waste was set to be open as usual so their pickup schedule would remain the same. He also warned against trimming trees right now.
Banasiak explained that people should not cut trees and branches prior to the storm and put them on the curb, as they could become projectiles.
Residents should be mindful of flooding, especial in low-lying areas.
“They should not sit back and think that they’re not going to be possibly impacted by this event,” Wilson said. “They need to be aware of that.”
Sand has been dropped off at locations throughout Lee County for citizens who want to protect their home using sandbags, especially from runoff.
“If they have concerns about their property,” he said.
Wilson added that residents should be safe and be sensible.
“It’s probably not a good day to go out boating or fishing or golfing,” he said.
The American Red Cross offered residents the following tips to prepare:
* Get a kit.
* Make a plan.
* Be informed.
“We’ve got possibly another day or two until we have any impact,” Colin Downey, a spokesperson with the ARC’s Southern Gulf Region, said Friday.
He added that now is the time to prepare and do what needs to be done.
“Everyone should have a hurricane kit,” Downey said.
It should include at least one gallon of water per day per person for at least three days and three days of non-perishable food per person. A flashlight with extra batteries and a battery-powered or crank-powered radio are good.
Keep copies of important or personal documents easily accessible.
If you decide to evacuate to a shelter, take along some “comfort items.”
“Something that’s going to make that experience a little easier for you and your family,” he said. “Make sure all household pets are part of the plan.”
When it comes to making a plan, share the plan with family members so everyone is on the same page. Downey noted that cell phones do not always work, so settle on a designated meeting place if the family is separated.
Share the plan with people outside of the area – family or friends – and have an outsider designated as the contact point in case of separation.
As for being informed, pay attention to media reports.
“What we want people to do is have that familiar source of weather information and stay tuned,” he said.
The American Red Cross launched a free app about a month ago that has weather alerts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, offers tips based on situation and includes live tracking of open shelters.
Residents can monitor the city’s Web site, or its Twitter or Facebook accounts for up-to-date information. Lee County offers the same.
“If things change, we’ll get information out to them,” Wilson said.