As I write this column the third named storm of the 2018 season is churning through the outer Atlantic. It’s been quite a while since we have had this much named activity this early. In talking to and working closely with both Collier County and Naples Emergency Management I can tell you that both are ready for the upcoming season.
Meetings have been held, plans updated, decisions made and lessons learned from Irma incorporated into planned responses.
Communication is a must during disasters, it is best to have as many devices as you can such as; battery powered radio, NOAA weather radio, landline or your cell phone. Great improvement in forecasting can now pinpoint storm surge and direction which will cut down on the size of the area that needs to evacuate. This in turn will decrease the traffic problems and the manpower needed to control them. The charge given to the community after hurricane Wilma was “The first 72 are up to you,” meaning you are responsible for your food, water, medicine, fuel and shelter for the first 72 hours after a storm.
This was established to allow emergency agencies to focus on those that were most affected by the storm. Those with life threatening injuries or catastrophic damage. If you choose to evacuate, do it when the order is given, not a day or two later. Procrastination is not a word to be used when it comes to you and your families’ well being.
In talking to groups and individuals one statement I hear over and over is “Well I went through a Category 4 storm with Irma, I can handle it.”
Let’s make one item perfectly clear! Irma was a Category 3 storm when it entered Collier County. It lost its bottom and quickly turned into a Category 2 storm. When that happened not only did the winds decrease but the
threat of a 10/15-foot storm surge in Naples went away. Only a fool would say we were lucky with Irma. Far too much pain and suffering happened and some still have unresolved issues. It could have been much worse and the death toll greater had the storm held together. From history I can tell you that this year hurricane seminars will be packed, everyone will have storms on their mind and will heed the 72-hour rule. I can also from experience tell you that next year hurricane seminar attendance will fall by 50 percent and the year after attendance will be nil.
That is how it has always been, stay prepared.