Are You Really Ready for Hurricane Season?


Are You Really Ready?

When hurricane season begins in June there is a flood of announcements urging residents and businesses to get ready. And most people ignore those calls for action. Luckily the public safety organizations that serve and protect the people of Southwest Florida act year round to be hurricane ready. We shared several articles on their efforts a couple months ago. Their efforts do not, however, take the place of personal preparation.

So far the Atlantic Hurricane season has created Tropical Storms Arlene, Bret, Cindy and Don, with only Cindy making landfall in Louisiana.

We know that many area residents are well aware that the peak, the “real” season is later in the summer. And as a result we reach this time of year with a lot of folks unprepared for a hurricane.

As we enter August, we are approaching the peak of the “real” hurricane season with most storm systems developing in August, September and October. Meteorologists tell us that the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is September 10th.

Now is really, truly the time to prepare if you haven’t done so already.

There is a tendency to not worry much about hurricanes here. Studies show that those at the most risk tend to minimize that risk. If you’re 19 and deep into the age of invincibility, that’s ok. But most of us are way past that and should know better. It’s human nature to forget the terrible stuff.

Hurricanes certainly fall into that category.

Charley Lessons

Our island also has some serious baggage when it comes to hurricanes. Charley roared ashore in 2004 as a Category 4 hurricane at Cayo Costa, northwest of Estero Island. Wind and surge on Estero Island were strong enough to destroy buildings, businesses and streets and leave behind serious flooding and damage that can still be seen along Estero Blvd.

Charley caused infrastructure damage on Fort Myers Beach that led Fire and Town officials to block re-entry to the island for several days. Downed power lines, raw sewage in the streets from broken sewer lines and pump stations without power – that kind of damage.

Blocking people from returning to their homes caused no small amount of anger among residents who had left the island on short notice when encouraged to do so. They wanted to be able to check on their homes and pets and were unable to cross the bridge.

The Charley experience led to better preparation all around for public safety and local government. It also served as a massive wake up call for area residents and public officials about the importance of being ready long before a hurricane warning is issued.

There is an extensive emergency management plan in place today, including cooperative plans for public safety agencies throughout Lee County. Are they perfect? Probably not, few plans are, but they are a huge step forward from what was available in 2004.
Think for just a minute about what kind of damage a direct hit by a slow moving Cat 5 storm with a 20ft wall of water would do to our island and your home.

Are we going to see a Cat 5 with maximum surge here on the Beach? I sure hope not, but there are no guarantees, and if we are to learn anything from Charley whose sudden turn brought it to Lee and Charlotte counties, it is that hurricanes defy prediction. We need to be prepared for the worst that can happen.

Remember that even if you aren’t concerned about yourself, try to think of the emergency personnel, our firefighters and deputies, who will be called upon to help you and put their own lives in jeopardy to do so, if you aren’t prepared – if you stay when they tell you to go. And remember, once the storm is underway and the winds cause public safety personnel to pull their crews from the island, there will be no help coming, even if you are able to reach 911 during the storm – no fire response, no ambulance, no deputies, until after the storm.

Most of my life has been spent in tornado country. I’ve seen some horrendous destruction from those quick-forming monsters. Living in hurricane country, I find that healthy respect for any kind of storm is prudent. Having a week’s notice (as opposed to a tornado’s maybe 2 minutes) that a massive storm may hit you is a luxury that we should all take advantage of.
If an evacuation order is issued, be ready to go. A wise woman once said in reference to hurricane evacuation orders, “I’m brave but I’m not stupid.”

Let’s all be brave and smart this year.

Be prepared. Have a plan. Be ready.


Missy Layfield