Almost ten months have passed since Southwest Florida was devastated by Hurricane Ian.
Between the volume of media coverage and the ruins that remain, I am confident that virtually no one wishes to discuss nor consider the upcoming hurricane season.
We are usually fortunate and, despite watches and warnings, our county has generally escaped previous storms with relatively manageable damage. If nothing else, Ian taught us to brace for the worst despite these previous misses.
Ian has taught us, first hand, how vulnerable we are here in Southwest Florida and, while we have no control over the severity or direction of future storms, we have an opportunity to prepare.
We’ve all seen the hurricane lists…batteries, water, fuel, etc. The list is lengthy. It includes pet needs, medications, flashlights, etc. and all suggestions should be heeded. Lists of recommended items can be found all over the internet and I won’t dwell on the need to purchase most, if not all, of those recommended items.
Rather, let’s discuss other issues:
Lee County covers an immense amount of area that includes waterfront property, low-lying regions and rural sections. As a result of these differences, we must fully understand our personal risk in regard to wind and water. Do you live in a flood-prone area? An evacuation zone? Are you subject to storm surge?
Consider the structure in which you reside. Is your home a manufactured home? Mobile home? Are you in a single-story structure subject to large volumes of water? Are your exterior doors and garage doors hurricane-proof? What are your home’s vulnerabilities?
Do you fully understand the difference between a “watch” and a “warning?” What are your thoughts when you see the “Hurricane Cone of Uncertainty? Do you recognize the potential size and movement of a storm or how quickly both can change?
No one wishes to evacuate their home. No one wants to leave behind cherished items. Sorting through a lifetime of belongings, just days prior to a storm, is nearly impossible. What must you take? What must you leave. How quickly can you safely gather those “must bring” items? Can it be done in advance?
Where would you go? Certainly storm direction plays a role in determining your evacuation plans. If you needed to head north, where would you go? East? South? What options do you have?
How will you communicate with relatives, neighbors, friends? Do you have a communication plan? Will you be able to check on the welfare of family members and friends? Will they be able to contact you?
What about your needs following the storm? Cash? Fuel? What hazards may surround you? Do you fully understand generator advantages and hazards?
The subject is a bitter one. While it is virtually impossible to find a silver lining following last year’s devastation, we can learn from it. We can be wiser. We can be better prepared.