As the Town-Crier goes to press, forecasters are predicting Tropical Storm Isaac to become a hurricane and possibly make landfall in South Florida early next week. With the possibility of a Hurricane Isaac less than a week away — coming on the heels of the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew’s landfall in South Florida — time is running out for those not prepared. For those who haven’t already made plans, done all their storm-supply shopping and made their homes and properties prepared, well, they have a lot of work ahead of them. And time might not be on their side.
When Andrew reached South Florida on Aug. 24, 1992, it was a Category 5. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Andrew was the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history up until that point. The storm cost FEMA $290 million in federal assistance and $746 million for help rebuilding the public infrastructure that was impacted. If Isaac makes a direct hit even as a Category 1, that’s strong enough to cause serious damage and leave Florida in a state of emergency.
If you’re thinking about evacuating the area, the sooner you leave, the better; there’s no way of predicting how crowded the roads will be on Sunday, and the last thing you’ll want is to be in a car race against a storm. For those choosing to stay, the first thing to do is ensure that your home is fortified and there are no damaged areas. For those without hurricane shutters, plywood will be hard to find on the day before the storm, so it’s imperative you swing by a home improvement store and stock up in advance. For those with shutters, don’t let that feeling of safety lull you into putting off their installation until the last minute. It’s an arduous task and, depending upon how big your home is, can take a long time — time that could be used to make your final preparations.
And you can count on losing electricity. Plan for life without power for weeks and shop accordingly, if you can. If the threat level rises over the next few days, the supermarkets will be full. Beyond all the essentials (water, non-perishable food, batteries, etc.), it’s important to make sure you’re up to date with any medications you may be taking. A storm doesn’t have to physically contact you to cause serious injury.
If you choose to seek shelter, there are two American Red Cross hurricane shelters serving the western communities: Seminole Ridge High School (4601 Seminole Pratt Whitney Road) and Palm Beach Central High School (8499 Forest Hill Blvd.). For more information on hurricane preparedness, visit the National Hurricane Center’s web site at www.nhc.noaa.gov or FEMA’s hurricane preparedness web site at www.ready.gov.