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Hurricane preparedness seminars get jump start

March 13, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

It's not too early to get ready for hurricane season.

That was the message at the pre-season hurricane preparedness seminar held last Tuesday at the Shell Factory and Nature Park.

Jody Van Cooney presented a number of preparedness experts including ABC-7 meteorologist John Patrick, representatives from Lee County Emergency Management, StormSmart, and even a representative from the Fort Myers Radio Club gave their points of view.

Article Photos

ABC-7 meteorologist John Patrick speaks during a pre-season hurricane seminar last Tuesday at the Shell Factory.


Each had a similar message to those delivered last year when Hurricane Irma was still fresh on everyone's mind: When a hurricane watch is issued, have a plan ready for what you're going to do - and pre-practice that plan.

As for preparedness, suggestions made included:

- Put together an emergency kit with enough food, water and supplies to last a week or more.

- Find a place to go if you have to evacuate.

- If you need plywood, get it early so you're not waiting in line for it when it's too late,

- And key, pay attention to what the experts tell you.

Patrick said Irma took about the same path as Hurricane Donna did in 1960. The September 2017 storm came into Southwest Florida through Chokoloskee and went north just to the east of U.S. 41.

Patrick explained how hurricanes form and how storm surge is more dangerous than wind. Irma had been forecasted to turn in the gulf, which would have resulted in terrible surge.

The fact, the storm turning inland was actually a big break, as the storm surge stayed away in this area but produced heavy flooding in Lehigh Acres and Bonita Springs.

He also said that while the season forecast hasn't come out yet, there is an official El Nino in the Pacific Ocean, which is actually good for hurricane season, as it creates wind shear over the waters, making it difficult for hurricanes to form.

Bill Floyd, of Lee County Emergency Management, talked about what they do during any emergency, how they decide which shelters to open and how they decide which facilities are suitable to house a shelter.

He also talked about having all the supplies you need for the storm and advised attendees to make sure their insurance coverage is appropriate.

Other speakers included John McEnroe of StormSmart, who addressed the kinds of protection for the home, from plywood to panels to roll downs, and John Wells, of the Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club, who explained that during Hurricane Charley, they became one of the few communication outlets available to emergency workers.

The main point all of the speakers made was the same: Have a plan, prepare it, practice it, and make sure you have all the necessities when the storm does come.

Barbara Cushman, of North Fort Myers, said that's the most important thing she learned.

"I should have one, but I don't have a thorough one. I have a kit, but I feel I need to be a little more prepared," Cushman said. "This increased our knowledge base. Last time we lost power for seven days."

Van Cooney said the timing of the seminar, in advance of the season doesn't start until June 1, is intentional.

"We wanted to start getting people to think about it and to make plans because if they wait until the last minute it's too late," Van Cooney said, adding she plans to do a second seminar around the start of hurricane season.



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