Preparation is key to surviving hurricane season

Participants in a recent Leon County Citizen Engagement Series on hurricane preparedness got an up close look at some the essentials to make it through a disaster.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

While forecasters are predicting a near normal hurricane season, Leon County is preparing for the possibility of another Hurricane Michael or anything worst.

Throughout the past few weeks, city and county governments have combined efforts to inform residents on how to prepare for a storm. In particular, county officials have been staging face-to-face meetings in a Citizen Engagement Series, the last held three days before a Build Your Bucket that focused on disaster preparedness on June 1.

“Disaster resilience really begins with our citizens,” said Mathieu Cavell, an assistant county administrator who oversees emergency management. “Our public safety folks can answer all the critical needs in the world but with 290,000 in our community we need to equip them with all the ways in which they can be prepared.”

Folks who missed the information session can find hurricane information on Facebook, City of Tallahassee Public Safety page at Talgove.com or the Leon County Emergency Information Portal at www.LeonCountyFl.gov./EL. Updates also will be provided during a storm on Twitter (@LeonCounty and @CotNews).

“The best way is to give them the information that they need,” said Cavell.

The information didn’t come too soon. Hurricane season began June 1.

Five days after the season began, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) updated its outlook for 2019. It did so in conjunction with the Climate Prediction Center and the National Hurricane Center. The agencies said the outlook calls for normal season for number of tropical storms.

The outlook calls for 9 to 15 named storms, with expectation that four to eight will become hurricanes. Two to four were predicted to be major hurricanes.

Hurricane Michael, which caused devastation in the Panhandle and significant damage in Tallahassee struck last fall. At least a hurricane or tropical storm had an impact on Tallahassee in the last three years.

About 100 people got plenty of information in the most recent engagement session held at the county’s Public Safety Complex. Participants were divided into four groups, each taking turn at meeting with experts in different areas of hurricane preparedness.

Some also received weather radio. 

They heard from eight different non-profit agencies, including the Red Cross and Salvation Army. Lessons also were given on how to deploy sandbags and how to use a home generator.

“I think it’s a great example of community,” said Red Cross volunteer Sandi Poreda. “It’s a great opportunity for people in the area to meet the different agencies that takes care of them and learn what to do in a time of crisis. There has been a lot of really great education here.”

There even was an interactive session on what should be in a bucket as a storm approaches. They heard that duct tape, batteries and even toys for those who might have children are among the essentials.

Toys and books might seem to be mundane; however, the importance was driven home by Royle King, public engagement liaison for Leon County.

“If you are in a hurricane and you can’t leave and you have children you need something to entertain them because kids get antsy,” King said.

He and Justin Moro, a graphic designer who assists the hurricane preparedness staff, reminded folks about the importance of having personal documents like insurance cards and social security cards secured in a zip lock bag.

“We want people to be comfortable but understand that when you’re rushing to do these things you might not get what you need. When you have time to prepare and you are evacuated you’re not rushing but you’re ready to go.”

That was the case for Janice Mayer and her husband during Hurricane Michael. They were prepared with water and generator with air mattress to go to a shelter at Roberts Elementary where they rode it out.

She’s attended previous engagement series, but felt the information was worth hearing again.

“I think it’s very useful because there are things that you just don’t think about,” she said. “Just little things.

“You don’t forget thing if you’re prepared. You just know what you’re supposed to do and just do it.”

Marcus Robinson, who had been in several winter storms in Chicago before recently moving to Tallahassee, said he was glad he didn’t miss the series.

“For them to put in the mad hours to do something like this is very important,” he said. “It’s a good experience for people to be safe.”