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Local residents warned to have a plan for hurricane season

By Staff | Jun 30, 2015

It’s been a decade since Southwest Florida has experienced a hurricane. But as history has shown, another one will hit at some point, so residents had better be ready.

That was the warning issued by William Floyd, Logistics Commander for Lee County Emergency Management and a veteran of more than 100 disasters, as he was guest speaker at the North Fort Myers Civic Association hurricane seminar at the recreation center on Thursday.

The theme of the evening was “Plan! Prepare! Pass It On!” An additional warning was issued saying that while the wind will hurt you, a storm surge will kill you.

North Fort Myers is especially susceptible, as Suncoast Estates and everything between Bayshore Road and the Caloosahatchee River is considered in the “A” evacuation zone, meaning it is highly susceptible to flooding and a storm surge.

And with Lee County being one of the worst in the state in regards to storm surge, having an action plan is critical, Floyd said.

For many, that plan should include either finding a shelter or getting out of town.

“We hope people prepare better and understand the risks they face in Southwest Florida. They should evacuate early if we’re threatened and work together in the community to make this a better place,” Floyd said.

Floyd suggested people know the risks of living in a manufactured home as North Fort Myers has many. People also need to know when the house was built and if they’re in a storm surge area and make a written family plan.

When ordered to evacuate – which the Hurricane Center takes very seriously as storms are both dangerous and expensive – that plan must be put in motion. Usually, you have adequate time to evacuate, but many procrastinate or don’t leave at all.

“If you ignore an evacuation order, you’re betting your life that you’re right,” Floyd said.

If you need to go to an emergency shelter (the recreation center is one of them, having been certified this year) make sure there is space available. Although there are more than 650,000 people in Lee County, the shelters can only house 31,000.

Floyd said you might be better off going to a friend or a hotel away from the storm’s path.

“I think people tend to not think about hurricanes. A high amount of people are unprepared for a storm,” Floyd said. “People are busy with day-to-day stuff and they don’t think about them until they happen. I’ve seen it time and time again.”

Floyd said you should have a storm kit that includes a backpack, written plan, important documents and items, your medications, cash, a credit card and gas in the car.

There was an additional component to the seminar, lightning, as Florida is the lightning capital of the world.

“You may not have a hurricane all year, but you could come face to face with lightning if you go outside,” said Michael Land, president of the civic association.

Land hoped everybody got something out of the session. He did, such as the fact they make meals that heat up with water through a chemical reaction.

“The heater meals were interesting. You can go to Dick’s and other sporting goods places and get a meal for $3 or $4 if you have no electricity,” Land said. “I’m prepared. I’m coming here, with 1,427 people.”

Nick Kerpchar also learned a lot, even as he went through a couple hurricanes while living on Galveston Island in Texas.

“It was a lot of familiarization and it validates what you remember, so it’s always a good thing,” Kerpchar said.