Thursday, June 1, was the official start of 2017’s hurricane season, and officials in Wellington are prepared to meet storm challenges.
Wellington, and the surrounding areas, have been lucky for the past decade-plus. Hurricane Matthew, last October, brought some rain, power outages and minor damage. Tropical Storm Isaac, in 2012, brought more than just a little rain. However, for the most part, Wellington has been spared from the wrath of a large hurricane bringing major damage.
Wellington Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes is confident in Wellington’s storm preparation.
“We have a standard procedure that we go through in preparation every year, and we do that in advance of hurricane season, which is to basically exercise the procedures that we would utilize during an actual storm event,” he said.
Preparations include participating in a mock drill that is done in conjunction with Palm Beach County and state agencies. Wellington-specific procedures also are gone through, such as securing facilities. “In addition to the day-to-day operating supplies, Wellington has identified and allocated supplies for emergency events,” Barnes said. “Those are kept up-to-date and are checked to ensure they are well-stocked.”
Some of the supplies include barricades and cones, in addition to short-term provisions for staff working through a storm event.
“We make sure that we’re stocked up and ready to go,” Barnes said.
There are many different methods available for residents to keep informed during a hurricane.
Wellington utilizes its social media accounts, particularly Facebook and Twitter, keeping them as up-to-date as possible.
“Should access also be available, we’ll also keep the web site updated,” Barnes said.
Additionally, in the past, an emergency call-in line has been utilized, which is manned by staff members who can direct residents to more information. News outlets are also kept up-to-date about utility availability and flooding.
“The web site offers streaming video information, public service announcements and updates, as well as Channel 18,” Barnes said.
Wellington also utilizes an opt-in emergency notification system called CodeRED. If there is an emergency message, village-wide or neighborhood-specific, Wellington is able to send notifications out through a prerecorded message or a public service announcement.
To prepare for a storm, Barnes suggests following the advice presented by Palm Beach County, the Solid Waste Authority and other emergency management officials.
“Make a plan so that you’re prepared in the event of an emergency, be it securing your home and your valuables, or in the event that your home or your location is compromised, that you have the information of where you can have a safe location, whether it is locally or at a shelter,” Barnes said.
According to the Palm Beach County web site, the closest shelters to Wellington are Seminole Ridge High School and Palm Beach Central High School.
“Once a shelter is opened by the county in an activated storm event, those are open until they reach capacity,” Barnes said. “There is no pre-registration that the county requires.”
Residents who require a special-needs shelter, however, must pre-register with the county.
Residents should be prepared with storm shutters or other devices to protect their windows if the windows are not high-impact, or have short-term solutions such as plywood to protect windows. Vegetation should be kept trimmed, but if a storm is approaching, that is not the time for a vegetation removal project.
“The closer we get to an actual storm making landfall, service becomes less available due to the preparations that other entities are making for the storm,” Barnes said.
Working ahead of time to ensure that there isn’t loose vegetation, or already down vegetation, will help minimize wind-blown debris.
“It seems that every hurricane season, we end up with a lot more storm and weather prediction experts, but at this point, we’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” Barnes said. “Certainly, should we encounter any storm events or emergency events, I think we’re prepared and certainly ready to make sure that we do our best to keep the residents in our community safe.”
For Palm Beach County storm information and preparedness tips, visit www.readypbc.org. For Wellington-specific information, visit www.wellingtonfl.gov. Residents can sign up for CodeRED on the village web site.