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Irma brings out record crowd to Hurricane Preparedness Seminar

June 13, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Lee County Emergency Management and the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District held a Hurricane Preparedness Seminar last Wednesday evening at the Pine Island United Methodist Church. More than 150 people attended the meeting and, in a show of hands, most said they did not attend last years hurricane seminar.

"I'm sure we have such a good turnout as a result of Hurricane Irma," M/PIFCD Chief Ben Mickuleit said. "It's been 13 years since Hurricane Charley and people get less concerned with hurricanes until one hits the area."

As of May 24, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict a 75 percent chance that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be near or above normal. NOAA forecasters predict a 35 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a fairly normal season and a 25 percent chance of a below-average season.

Article Photos

Lee Mayfield, director of Public Safety and Emergency Management for Lee County, addresses the crowd at the island hurricane seminar.


The hour-long seminar was hosted by Lee Mayfield, director of Public Safety and Emergency Management in Lee County, who presented a slideshow.

"Irma was very unique and different from Charley," Mayfield said. "Charley was a very small and fast moving storm. It did bring a lot of storm surge. Storm surge is what we talk about as really the life safety risk in hurricanes. It's not the winds that hurts people for the most part and causes the loss of life it's the storm surge."

Hurricane Irma formed in late August 2017 off the coast of Africa. On Sept. 5 the National Hurricane Center issued a message that "Irma is a potentially catastrophic category 5 hurricane and will bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards to portions of the northeastern Leeward Islands ... the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico ..."

On Sept. 7, local news was reporting Irma as a Category 5 hurricane with winds decreasing to 165 mph as it "takes aim at Florida."

"Irma was a little bit scary because it had the potential to bring 10 to 15 feet of storm surge to Lee County," Mayfield said. "Anybody know what 10 to 15 feet of storm surge would do to where we're standing right now?"

According to Mayfield, Lee County evacuated over 300,000 people more than ever before.

Lee County also had the largest sheltering operation in history sheltering approximately 30,000 people in 14 shelters.

Hurricane season is from June 1 through Nov. 30 and Floridians face specific risks such as wind, tornadoes, heavy rainfall and storm surge during a storm

According to the "All Hazards Guide" handed out to every attendee, pre-planning before a hurricane is essential especially for those that live in Zone A.

Zone A is the most vulnerable area, the first to be impacted, and the first to be evacuated. Due to the low elevation and proximity to tidal waters of Pine Island and Matlacha, there is a potential for a fatal storm surge.

Experts say evacuation to a shelter should not be a first choice as an evacuation location. General population shelters provide only the most basic needs a roof with little floor space. If you have pets check for pet friendly shelters.

According to the All-Hazards Guide "as many as one in four people live with some form of disability. People with disabilities must assume personal responsibility and be prepared for an emergency."

For those with special needs, LeeTran will provide transportation to shelters. However, you must pre-apply to stay at a special needs shelter.

The "All Hazards Guide" includes a comprehensive "Supply Kit" for emergencies. This is a partial list: One gallon of drinking water per person 3 to 7-day supply, plastic wrap, cooler for food storage and ice, lighter or matches, sleeping bags, lawn chairs, camp stove, spare glasses, personal hygiene items, list of prescription medications, over the counter medications, hand sanitizer, water and food for animals, NOAA weather radio, first aid kit, etc.

All Hazards Guides are available at the Fire Department.

The M/PIFCD works to form and train a successful Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) that can be used in community events and in case of an emergency. Contact M/PIFCD for information.

The M/PIFCD is implementing a new hurricane pass system. The new sticker system is an improvement to the tag system previously used. The new pass is a sticker to be placed inside your car window and will be valid from 2018-2022.

You can obtain two stickers per drivers license; you must provide proof of residency (drivers license with district address, utility bill, tax bill, etc.; you will need to provide license plate number(s) and you will need to fill out a short application

The new sticker pass is available at Station 1, located at 5700 Pine Island Road, Bokeelia, FL 33922. Please stop by during regular business hours from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. If you have any questions please call us at 239-283-0030.

This program is designed to ease re-entry. This is a voluntary program and is not a requirement. Residents are still able to re-enter by providing proof of residency at checkpoints, when implemented.

"Nobody can tell us what this upcoming hurricane season will be like here in Lee County," Mayfield said. "Preparing now for those rare hurricane landfalls is just the smart thing to do -?have a family disaster plan, know what you would do in the event of an evacuation, check your insurance policy and build a disaster supply kit. The more prepared you are, the better your outcome will be in the next storm."

"This is the largest turnout I've seen in a long time," Mickuleit said. "After Hurricane Irma, I think people want to be more aware of what they should do when another hurricane comes our way. Anyone that does not have a copy of the 'All Hazards Guide' should stop by Fire Station #1 located in the center next to United Methodist Church on Pine Island Road."



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