OUR POSITION: While it was a minor threat, the area’s preparations for and performance during Tropical Storm/Hurricane Elsa were exemplary.
It was a good drill.
There was no frantic run on the supermarkets or big box stores for water and batteries. No one was filling up their pickup trucks with plywood — of course the price of plywood may have been one reason.
Past hurricane seasons have likely produced storm veterans in Charlotte, Sarasota and DeSoto counties. So, a tropical storm — which became a hurricane late Tuesday night as it passed Charlotte County — was not going to have anyone searching for an emergency shelter. For most of us, 50- to 60-mile-an-hour winds, especially when they’re originating 40 or 50 miles off our coast, are not something to produce undue fear.
Yet we don’t want to minimize the threat of any storm. Rising waters, tornadoes and wind gusts that can send projectiles flying through the air can be dangerous. No one should ever scoff at a tropical storm or category 1 hurricane.
However, in Wednesday morning’s soggy aftermath, emergency management personnel were praising the work of their teams and pleased the storm caused minimal, if any, damage.
But there is always a next time. A tropical storm the first week in July is rare and is a foreboding message that this could be a bad season of storms in Florida.
Hurricane Elsa is a good reason for everyone to brush up on their plans and preparations for the next storm.
Do you know your flood zone? Do you know your evacuation zone? Do you know where the closest shelters are? If you have disabilities, are you registered for help? What are your plans for your pets?
One of the first things to do as hurricane season takes hold is register for alerts from your respective county. You can go to each county’s website and register for text messages or emails that will give you information about the next storm that threatens our coast. In DeSoto County, if you don’t have a computer, you can also call 863-993-4831 to register.
It is a big help to know your flood zone. Counties will alert residents of the potential for flooding according to the size of the storm, other weather conditions and tides at the time the storm is expected to hit. In Charlotte County there are five evacuation zones: A — Red, B — Orange, C — Yellow, D — Green and E — Purple. Those colors are still posted on many stop signs in the county. In DeSoto County, if you don’t have access to a computer, you can get information on evacuation and flood zones through the All Hazards Guide that is available at the county library.
Anyone with disabilities can pre-register for admittance to a special needs shelter in case of a dangerous hurricane. In Charlotte County all persons must be accompanied by a caregiver and provide their own bedding, food, water, medications, and transfer oxygen devices. No pets are allowed unless they are a service animal. All service animals must have vaccination records and be caged. There are two ways you can register: online at the Florida Special Needs Registry or you can download an application and mail or email the completed document to 26571 Airport Road, Punta Gorda, FL 33982 or email Emergency.Management@CharlotteCountyFL.gov.
DeSoto County also has a special needs shelter at Southwest Florida College.
Let’s hope we get really lucky and all the tropical storms and hurricane pass us by this year. But it never hurts to be prepared.