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Shell Factory hosts hurricane seminar

June 13, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The best advice anyone can get at a hurricane seminar is to be prepared, whether it's to protect the house or evacuate if you have to.

Last Tuesday, at the Shell Factory, experts in the field gave pretty much the same advice to those who attended the second hurricane seminar held there is year.

The previous one in March was standing room only. Tuesday's event wasn't quite so packed but was more geared toward locals who learned what people should worry about and how to get through the tempest in the best shape possible.

John Patrick, ABC-7 chief meteorologist, was the main speaker. He spoke about hurricanes in general and specifically about Irma, which hammered Southwest Florida in September, particularly in the southern and eastern parts of the county.

Patrick said Irma resembled Hurricane Donna, which came through Florida in 1960, in terms of the track, the date and even how it came close to emptying the Caloosahatchee River.

But unlike in past years, the good news was that people had an opportunity to prepare, thanks to better technology in tracking storms. The result was zero fatalities directly resulting from the storm.

"We had a week and a half to prepare for Irma. Everyone made their preparations, they evacuated when they were asked to evacuate and, most important, everyone stayed in their house," Patrick said. "We were very happy nobody died."

Patrick said an increased number of major storms is becoming the new normal. From 1981-2010 there were 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes on average.

However, nine of the 10 warmest years on record have happened since 2000 and the last three were the warmest on record as a result of global warming.

Patrick did some research on the last 30 years (1988-2017) and learned that there were 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major ones. But there is a silver lining for this year.

"We're going to see more active hurricane seasons as we go on in the future," Patrick said. "This year the waters in the gulf, Caribbean and the Atlantic are cooler than normal, so that's good news."

Mark McDonald of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center, provided sign language for those hard of hearing.

Bill Floyd of Lee County Emergency Management also spoke regarding what they do and what people should do before, during and after the storm. Should you stay put, evacuate or go to a shelter?

During Irma nearly 35,000 people went to the 14 shelters (two special needs) throughout Lee County. Germain Arena, which was meant to hold 4,500, ended up with 8,500, said Floyd, who sent his wife to Virginia during the storm.

The best thing people can do is "know their zone" and have a plan. If you live in an area where there is a risk for storm surge, leave.

"Most people in Lee County live in the A, B, and C zones. More than 300,000 people evacuated because storm surge is our biggest threat," Floyd said. "Get a plan right now. Don't rush to Home Depot 24 hours before the storm. That doesn't cut it."

Other speakers included Brian Rist of StormSmart, who urged people to plan, prepare and practice any hurricane strategy, Greg Firth, who talked about homeowners insurance and the pitfalls to avoid (never sign an assignment of benefits), and Kathy Gray of Project HOPE as well as representative from Home Depot.



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