OUR POSITION: Hurricane Dorian grows to threatening size.
Only weeks past the 15-year anniversary of Hurricane Charley, Florida is being threatened with a hurricane of rising intensity and an unsettled path.
As of this writing, Hurricane Dorian was headed toward landfall on the Atlantic coast. Best estimates are that it will hit the mainland sometime Monday. Also, and most unsettling, that it could rise to a fierce Category 4 storm.
Forecasts change hour to hour, and by the time you read this the speed and power of the hurricane likely will change, as will the “cone of uncertainty.”
That’s the point of predictions, though. Everything’s in a cone of uncertainty. The best modern science gives us a solid idea of probabilities, but chance exists that the unlikely becomes reality. Those of us who were here when Charley traveled up the Gulf Coast in August 2004 remember the monster was expected to hit landfall in Tampa Bay. The storm took a sudden turn in Charlotte Harbor instead. Destruction ensued.
So, in the interest of safety and soundness, we reiterate the most common warning of emergency managers:
You never know.
And repeat: You never know.
Now, don’t freak out. But don’t ignore the threat. Proper preparation not helps ensure that you and your property will be better protected, but it helps ease the mind.
On Wednesday, Charlotte County Emergency Management recommended that contractors tie down, cover up or clear out work in progress that might get damaged by wind and rain. It’s sound advice for homeowners, too. Boaters too. Tie down or remove anything that could blow away. Stay tuned to the news and act accordingly.
Preparations are always key. Take time to look at the Charlotte County Emergency Management website (Charlottecountyfl.gov). Know your evacuation zone. Sarasota County supplies similar information through its website (Scgov.net).
Sarasota also lists the schools used as evacuation centers in our area — North Port High School, Woodland and Heron Creek middle schools and Atwater Elementary School. There are maps online at scgov.net and evacuation center guidelines. (Note, pets are now permitted at all shelters.) Charlotte County has no Red Cross-certified shelters, due to its low elevation, but Charlotte residents in the past have fled across the county line to shelter in North Port. Until Charlotte has its own shelter, that will continue.
If things do get hairy, shelters will be opened as needed. Please don’t assume a listed shelter will be open. Check with authorities first.
By state law, counties must make provisions for residents with special needs. If you go to the respective websites, you can download an application or sign up with the Florida Special Needs Registry.
In addition, sign up for notifications from Alert Charlotte, also on the county website. Alerts come through phone calls, texts or emails. Sarasota offers a similar option through CodeRED Weather Warning. It’s a smart option.
Finally, review your hurricane preparation to-do list. (A printout is available under emergency services at scgov.net.)
Stock up on drinking water, juice, canned food, peanut butter and the like. Check your medications; make sure you’ve got enough. Get extra cash, in case the grid goes. You may need battery-operated flashlights and a radio. Extra batteries. Gas up the car. Make sure all your papers are in order, in one place, in a secure plastic container.
We all hope Dorian will pass us by. You never know, though. And that holds for Erin, Fernand and Gabrielle, too.
Stay tuned. Prepare.