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Florida in Dorian’s sights

By Staff | Aug 29, 2019

Florida has a visitor this Labor Day weekend, and his name is Dorian.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the now Category 1 hurricane is approaching the east coast of Florida, and is expected to strengthen to a Category 4 by the time it is predicted to make landfall somewhere between the Florida Keys southern Georgia — a 500-mile stretch that goes to show the unpredictability of the path this storm will take.

Category 4 hurricanes see sustained winds of 130-156 mph and is the second highest classification on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

We are approaching peak hurricane season in the Atlantic, typically the most activity occurring in early September.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a state-wide state of emergency Thursday afternoon at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

“Due to Hurricane Dorian’s uncertain projected path, I am expanding the state of emergency to include all 67 counties throughout Florida,”said DeSantis in a statement. “All residents, especially those along the east coast, need to be prepared for possible impacts. As it increases strength, this storm has the potential to severely damage homes, businesses and buildings, which is why all Floridians should remain vigilant. Do not wait until it is too late to make a plan.”

Florida Division of Emergency Management Director, Jared Moskowitz, was alongside DeSantis and warned residents to stay alert.

“Because of the uncertainty in the track of this storm, every resident along the East Coast needs to be ready,” Moskowitz said in a statement. “As updates come out, it’s important that Floridians continue to pay attention to media and local officials as the track of this storm has been changing and can continue to change rapidly. By having an Executive Order in place and by activating the State Emergency Operations Center to a Level 2, we are fully prepared to support any community that might be impacted.”

NOAA meteorologist Tony Hurt said Southwest Florida residents at the most should expect tropical storm conditions, that include heavy rains and high winds.

“The impacts will primarily be rainfall,” Hurt said. “The greatest threat to area residents will be flooding with the already full (bodies of water in the area).”

Hurt warned that if the storm continues to travel west, residents may see a bit more activity, including wind gusts approaching 80 mph or greater. Hurt envisioned the storm impacting the area Monday into Tuesday.

Here in Lee County, the Emergency Operation Center has not yet been activated, though officials are closely monitoring activity.

“In the event that specific weather impacts are forecasted for Lee County, the EOC has the ability to initiate a number of protective actions,” said Lee Mayfield, director of Lee County Public Safety, in a statement. “These decisions would be made based on likely impacts and threats from a significant storm system. It’s still too early to tell what impacts Dorian might bring to Southwest Florida. As always, we encourage the public to prepare by having a hurricane plan and building a disaster supply kit.”

Lee County DOT crews have prepared drainage systems on the county-maintained roadway network for a heavy rain event, county officials said. This includes prepping roadway ditches and swales as well as DOT-maintained drainage canals.

Lee County Natural Resources and DOT both have worked in the last 23 months since Hurricane Irma to clear drainage areas that were impacted by the storm as well as others that were not impacted but were in need of clearing. After the initial post-storm removal of known waterway impediments, the county moved on to conduct flood assessments by watershed areas to identify impediments to storm flow and take care of those that could be handled in the short term.

The Cape Coral EOC also is currently monitoring the storm, and are suggesting Cape residents do the same.

No evacuations have been ordered as of Thursday afternoon.

The state is doing its part to prepare, as DeSantis’ Office said Florida has 819,000 gallons of water and 1.8 million meals ready for distribution.

Attorney General Ashley Moody activated Florida’s Price Gouging Hotline state-wide.

“Floridians in the projected path of this storm should take steps now to ensure they are prepared for a strike and the possibility of days without electricity,” Moody said in a prepared statement. “This means purchasing essential commodities such as food, water and fuel. I have activated Florida’s Price Gouging Hotline in an effort to prevent gouging, so Floridians can afford essential items now. Please report gouging to my office by calling (866) 9NO-SCAM or download our new reporting app-NO SCAM.”

State law prohibits excessive increases in the price of essential commodities, such as food, water, hotel rooms, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment, needed as a direct result of an officially declared emergency, Moody’s Office said.

Violators are subject to penalties of $1,000 per violation and $25,000 for multiple violations in a 24-hour period.

* Disaster Kit

Perhaps the No.1 way to prepare in the event of a hurricane is to create a disaster supply kit.

This “all-hazards” kit should include basic survival items such as nonperishable food, water, personal items such as medicine, hygiene items, flashlights, important documents, some basic tools and more.

“Think of every member of your household and what they really need on a day-to-day basis,” said Caitie Eck, emergency management coordinator with Lee County during a hurricane preparedness event in June.

Officials said residents should have a three-day supply of water for every person and pet in your household — which is one gallon per person or pet each day.

“You also want to have a three-day supply of nonperishable food. So that should be something that’s shelf stable, and my recommendation is something that doesn’t require any kind of heating or cooling before you eat it,” said Eck.

When it comes to storing things that are battery powered, such as a flashlight or radio, Eck said to make sure that you are storing the batteries separately until it is time for use.

“Don’t keep the batteries in your flashlight, or keep them in your radio, because then they go bad and when you need it, you don’t have the item that you need,” Eck said.

It is also smart to carry cash, as many ATMs may be down due to power loss during and after storms.

Another important item to pack may be lightweight clothing to keep you dry or cool for post-storm activities such as clearing debris.

Prescription medication is vital to those who may rely on it, and having what you need in-stock is essential in emergency situations.

“When an emergency declaration is issued it allows people to get medications that they might not otherwise be able to refill at the time. You can go to a pharmacy and refill something that might be low,” said Eck.

Important paperwork and documentation is also important to keep handy, such as insurance documents, title to your house, passports, Social Security cards, drivers license.

“Keep it in a Ziploc bag so that it stays nice and dry,” said Eck.

When accounting for food and water, make sure your pets are included in the total numbers.

Sanitation supplies such as unscented bleach, rubber gloves, toilet paper, rags, cleaners and disinfectants also can be collected.

Other miscellaneous items such as spare keys, maps and evacuation information, duct tape, plastic tarps, emergency contact information can all be helpful during an emergency.

Eck said to remember that your kit should be prepared for post-storm scenarios, as well as if you have to evacuate your home — whether that be to an area out of an evacuation zone or a shelter.

“You want to be self-sustainable,” Eck said. “Those with a disaster supply kit are at a tremendous advantage. A prepared community is a resilient community. A prepared household is a resilient household. The more resilient our individual households are, the more resilient our community is going to be. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link — we are only as resilient as our least prepared members of our community.”

For a comprehensive list of items you may want to add to your kit and to create your household’s emergency plan, visit www.leegov.com, select public safety and visit emergency management.

* Stay up to date

Lee County has developed new ways to help residents stay better informed on the most up-to-date information when it comes to emergency situations.

AlertLee and LeePrepares are two free programs that give real-time updates and information pertaining to shelter openings, preparedness, and when an emergency situation arises.

“We’ve rolled out two new programs this year,” said Jonathan Diamond, emergency management coordinator with Lee County in June. “We’ve partnered with all of our local municipalities.”

AlertLee is the county’s mass notification system, and is capable of delivering rapid emergency notifications via phone, text, email and social media, and is run my Lee County Emergency Management.

The app will utilized whenever there are situations such as severe weather, missing persons, evacuation notices, boil water notices, fire or floods and active shooter situations.

“What the public needs to do is go to www.AlertLee.com and you’ll create a profile and tell the system what areas you want to receive notifications about,” said Diamond.

Users can put in up to five addresses and determine in which manner they would like to receive alerts, whether that be via text, email, phone, etc.

“There’s up to 14 or 15 different types of alerts that you can choose from. But we encourage everyone to at least sign up for just the system itself so that way during a very large incident we can reach you and we know where you are and how to get to you,” said Diamond.

Visit www.AlertLee.com to sign up.

The LeePrepares app is free for iphone and Android devices, and includes an interactive map that allows users to find their evacuation zone via GPS or address search. It also will let the user know what shelters are currently open and provides information about staying in a shelter. It also offers preparedness tips for impending events.

“LeePrepares is good to basically understand what is your evacuation zone. So when we’re issuing those evacuation orders, the way we communicate that is ‘We’re now issuing orders for Zone A,’ so you need to know does that actually include me or not,” said Diamond.

The app normally has a teal colored border, but during an emergency event, the background color will change to red, along with a notification that the Emergency Operations Center is activated.

“At that point, we’ll be putting real-time information through the app about shelter locations, food and water distribution sites, so it’s a really good resource for before, during and after a storm,” said Diamond.

Search for LeePrepares in your smart phone’s app store to download.

Lee County’s official Facebook page for preparedness information can be found by searching LCEMFL. You can also follow Lee County Emergency Management operations via Twitter @LeeEOC and @LCEMFL.

* Road Safety Tips

“Dorian has the potential to cause flight cancellations, altered cruise itineraries, and extremely hazardous conditions on the road,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group, in a statement. “AAA urges travelers to monitor weather reports closely and follow the advice of authorities. Travelers concerned about their flight or cruise should check online or contact their travel provider for a status update. Those planning a road trip should plan ahead and make arrangements to be off the road if and when severe weather strikes.”

Tips include making sure your windshield wipers, headlights and tail lights are properly working. Check your tire’s tread depth and tire pressure. Make sure your brakes are properly functioning to be able to stop suddenly on wet roads. And make sure you have an emergency kit in your vehicle that include a mobile phone and car charger, flashlight with extra batteries, first-aid kid, water, snacks, jumper cables and emergent flares or reflectors.

Avoid standing water and flooded roads at all times. If you vehicle shuts down while in standing water, do not try and restart it and do not remain in your car.

* National Guard

An advisory from the Florida National Guard read:

The Florida National Guard has begun preparations in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian. With approximately 12,000 Soldiers and Airmen assigned, the Florida National Guard can activate personnel as needed and directed by the Governor. We are well-equipped with assets including high-wheeled vehicles, helicopters, boats and generators, and are preparing for possible missions to include humanitarian assistance, security operations, search and rescue, aviation, and more.

* Pets

Our furry friends are not to be forgotten during storm time, so it is important to prep for them just as you would yourself.

Make sure you include in your disaster supply kit food, water, leash, collar, carrier and toys for your pet.

It is also important to microchip your animal in the event that you may be separated from them for any reason.

“First thing I always suggest everybody do is microchip your pets. After Irma, we impounded over 300 pets that got separated from their owners, less than half of them were microchipped. The ones that were, got reunited very quickly,” said Karen Fordiani, commutations specialist for Lee County Animal Services in June.

If you have to go to a shelter, make sure you have your vet records sealed in a zipped plastic storage bag to bring with you. You will need that to claim your pet in the event of separation, said Fordiani.

There are also stickers available to put in your home’s window to identify how many pets are in the home so that emergency services know if, for any reason, they have to enter your home, even out of hurricane season.

Visit www.leegov.com/animalservices to find more animal preparedness information and a list of hotels nationwide that are pet friendly if you are forced to evacuate.

* Salvation Army

The Salvation Army has placed all disaster relief resources across the state of Florida on standby. These resources include more than 30 mobile feeding units which can each serve 500 1,500 meals per day.

“Our disaster relief teams train throughout the year here locally and throughout Florida to ensure we’re prepared to serve when disaster strikes,” said Major Carlyle Gargis, Area Commander for The Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry, and Glades Counties, in a prepared statement. “We encourage everyone to heed the warnings of their local emergency management offices to make sure they are as prepared as possible before the storm arrives.”

The Salvation Army works alongside local officials to meet critical needs before, during, and after the storm.

The Salvation Army is equipped to mobilize incident management teams to serve impacted areas after the storm makes landfall. For updates on The Salvation Army’s disaster relief efforts, visit www.SalArmyEDS.org.

* Alcoholic Beverage Sales

The city of Cape Coral, as well as Fort Myers, have the ability, during any state of local emergency declared by City Council or the City Manager, to suspend or regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages.

“There are no plans to ban the sales of alcohol,” said city spokesperson Maureen Buice.

For news updates and preparedness tips packaged in our Hurricane Guide, visit cape-coral-daily-breeze.com or our Facebook page.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj