June 5, 2019, Clay Today – “One of the most important things we can do as Floridians is not forget that storm season comes every year and we need to always assume it will be a serious hurricane season,” said Lisa Miller, former Florida Insurance Commissioner. “It’s all about protecting people and property.” (Original story location: https://www.claytodayonline.com/stories/hurricane-preparation-should-start-long-before-the-first-gust-of-wind,17541 )
Clay County, Fla. – It’s hurricane season. Are you ready?
The time to prepare for a storm is before tropical waves are formed in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. That means working well ahead of the wind, rain and flooding that comes with each storm.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, Florida Division of Emergency Management and Clay County Emergency Management all agree: If you don’t have a plan, make one. If you don’t have supplies, get them. If you wait until landfall is imminent, it’s already too late. Preparation can be the difference in survival or death.
“One of the most important things we can do as Floridians is not forget that storm season comes every year and we need to always assume it will be a serious hurricane season,” said Lisa Miller, former Florida Insurance Commissioner. “It’s all about protecting people and property.”
Flood waters are the biggest concern for Clay County. Residents along Black Creek in Middleburg still are digging through the damage left by Hurricane Irma from nearly two years ago.
The St. Johns River Water Management District is more than ready for the worst Mother Nature may dish up this storm season.
“We’ve recently reached a technological milestone in operating our flood control structures in the Upper St. John River Basin and Moss Bluff Dam,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “We have the ability to operate flood control structures from remote locations using a computer, tablet or even a cell phone. This allows us to adjust water levels prior to or during a hurricane without risking the safety of our staff.”
The district operates flood-control structures in the Upper Ocklawaha River Basin – the Apopka-Beauclair Lock and Dam, Apopka Dam, Moss Bluff Dam and the Burrell Dam — to create additional capacity when necessary. Similarly, the Upper St. Johns River Basin Project has gate structures to allow water to flow north, increasing water storage capacity.
Each year, the district’s experienced staff participates in statewide disaster preparedness training with Florida’s emergency officials. The agency has also weathered many hurricanes and tropical storms, assisting local governments and communities before and in the aftermath of devastating storms, most recently Hurricane Michael in 2018, Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. A list of local government flooding contacts is available on the district’s website at www.sjrwmd.com/localgovernment/flooding.
Things to do now
-First, make a checklist of everything that needs to be done. It’s much easier to work from a script in a time of crisis than flailing during a crisis.
-Make copies of your important papers and seal them in a waterproof zip-lock bag.
-Plan an evacuation route.
-Make sure everyone in your family has a time or place to meet if they get separated.
-Call ahead to see if a shelter accepts pets.
-Sign up for emergency smart phone alerts from Clay County Emergency Management, National Weather Service and Florida Department of Transportation.
“Being informed is hugely valuable,” said Glenn East, interim director of the county’s emergency management office.
To sign up for Clay’s emergency alerts, go to ALERT.claycountygov.com.
Complete as soon as possible
-Make a go-bag with important papers, photos, medications and basic clothing that can be easily and quickly accessed.
-Have material on standby to protect windows and secure your property.
-Stock up on necessary supplies to survive for five days like water, flashlights, ice chests, non-perishable foods, canned goods, manual can opener, knives, peanut butter, two-way weather band radio, plastic sheeting, tie downs, bungee cords, LP gas and kerosene containers, bandages, first aid kit, lanterns and candles, baby formula, solar battery chargers and blankets. For a complete list of necessary supplies, visit fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/90354.
“We now say up to five days instead of three,” East said. “And now is the time to do it instead of waiting.”
Shelves are likely to be empty of many of these supplies – especially water –if you wait until a storm is approaching.
“Anything to help you maintain, anything you’d need if you were without power for five days,” East said.
As the storm approaches
-Clear debris from your yard. If you don’t have room for lawn chairs and pool toys, throw them in the pool. They won’t blow away – and through a window – from the bottom of a pool.
-Fill bathtub with water.
-Double-check your supplies.
-Board up windows.
-Evacuate if ordered. Remember, you not only risk you and your family’s lives by staying, you’re risking the lives of emergency responders.
During the storm
-Hopefully you’ll be watching the storm on television from a safe place. If not, stay away from windows and huddle in the center of your home where there’s a greater chance of heavier support beams.
-Don’t go outside when it suddenly becomes calm. They call it the eye of the storm for a reason.
-Avoid creating any open flames, especially if you have any natural gas appliances.
-Stay inside! It’s too late to run now.
After the storm
-Do an assessment of your property and report damages to your insurance company.
-Don’t drink tap water until you’re told its safe. You should have at least one gallon of water a day for each person in your family. Also, don’t ration water. There’s an old saying about surviving in the desert that applies to hurricane recovery: “Don’t die with a half-canteen of water.”
-Stay off the roads. Let the emergency crews do their jobs.
-Stay away from downed power lines.
-Help your neighbors.
-Pay attention to local media for information.
The NOAA predicts there will be two-to-four major hurricanes this year. Nobody knows if they’ll if, or where, they will make landfall.
But it’s never too early to be prepared.
Copyright © 2019, Clay Today.