Floridians have learned to keep a wary eye on the tropics during hurricane season, which kicks off June 1 and runs through November 30. The official 2014 hurricane forecast from Colorado State University and Dr. William Gray calls for a less-than-average year with a total of nine named tropical storm systems and three becoming hurricanes and one reaching major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher.
The hurricane forecast experts at Colorado State cite the reason as cooler-than-average water temperatures in the Atlantic Basin and the likelihood of a moderate El Niño weather pattern developing in late summer or fall. Floridians fully understand numbers and forecasts means nothing.
In 1992, there were only six named storms for the entire season. Unfortunately, one of them was Hurricane Andrew, which caused $25 billion in damage and left the state’s insurance industry in shambles.
Lake County Emergency Management Division Manager Tommy Carpenter said his biggest concern as the county enters hurricane season is “amnesia, because the last hurricane to actually strike Lake County was Hurricane Donna in 1960. There is no evidence that any of the storms in 2004 had hurricane winds in Lake County.”
Carpenter believes Lake County is ready for the next storm with its new 28,000-square-foot Emergency Communications and Operations center, which is rated for 160 mile-per-hour winds and has redundant utilities. The ECOC will be the command post for the County Executive Policy Group, comprised of the County Commission Chairman, School Board Chairperson, constitutional officers and public safety personnel.
The AlertLake system is a telephone call system, which alerts residents about local law enforcement emergencies, fire threats, tornado warnings and hurricane emergency information.
Residents who do not have a hard-wired phone may register their cell phone with the AlertLake system by going to the Emergency Management page at www.lakecountyfl.gov and clicking on the AlertLake registration link or by calling the Lake County Emergency Management Division (LCEMD) at 352-343-9472.
The LCEMD will utilize both Twitter and Facebook to send out emergency information, which could be helpful for residents and their family members out of the area.
Carpenter stresses that all Lake County residents need to prepare prior to any storm or emergency threat. He says, “Everyone has to be responsible for themselves.” Each family should have an emergency checklist and kit that can be pulled out at a moment’s notice.
The emergency checklist lists all tasks that should be completed before the storm hits, and the emergency kit should consist of items needed to sustain you and your family for five to seven days.
Items in the kit should include: 1 gallon of water per day per person, non-perishable food, manual can opener, NOAA Weather Radio, flashlight and batteries, toiletries and any other family necessities. For large, unexpected emergencies such as a sinkhole or explosion, Carpenter says all households should have a “go kit” that includes identification, cash and insurance policies. More information on kit supplies and hurricane preparations can be found at the county website.
Next week’s column will discuss shelters in Lake County in case of a hurricane emergency. Pet-friendly and special needs shelters are available in Lake County and residents need to understand the requirements for each prior to the storm.
Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Radio Show heard every Monday at noon on My790AM WLBE in Leesburg.