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Officials Reflect On Alberto, Urge Preparedness As Hurricane Season Starts

Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season is now officially underway. The six-month season runs from June 1 to November 30.

This year, emergency managers across Florida didn’t have to wait until June to deal with a tropical event as Subtropical Storm Alberto showered much of the state with rain as it tracked toward the Pensacola area for several days before drifting eastward and making a Monday landfall in Panama City.

“Fortunately, it didn’t impact us a whole great bit,” said John Dosh, emergency management chief for Escambia County. “But, it was a great exercise, if we can use that analogy, to maybe catch the attention of the general public on the tropical season is coming, starting here in a couple of days.”

Dosh said the early arriving Alberto was a great opportunity for residents to prepare for hurricane season by restocking their supply kits and knocking the dust off their disaster plans.

On Thursday, Dosh and members of his emergency management team from Escambia joined their counterparts from Santa Rosa County for a Joint Activation Meeting. The purpose of the meeting at the Santa Rosa Emergency Operations Center was to discuss their readiness and methods of information sharing with the media in the event of future tropical events.

“We’re so closely tied,” said Brad Baker, Santa Rosa County Emergency Management Director of the need for a joint activation. Escambia and Santa Rosa share several major corridors, many residents commute across county lines for work, and depend on the same local news outlets to distribute critical storm information. “Our media partners share both counties so they’re pushing that word. So, anytime we can come together and work things out on the front side do on the front side it’s always better.”

To assist residents with their hurricane preparedness, both counties now feature the Know Your Zone program, an online software tool that identifies which evacuation zone their home is in. Fully developed, the program also includes graphics to reinforce the flood threat.

“It will show, based upon the evacuation zone that you’re in, it will give you an estimate of what the water levels will be at that location and it gives an artist rendition of the water surrounding the home,” said Dosh.

For the 2018, forecasters had been predicting an average to above-average season. Colorado State University dropped its forecast a bit, but it’s still in the average range with 14 named storms, six hurricanes, and two major hurricanes – category 3 or stronger - expected.

Last year, three category 4 storms (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) hit the U.S.

Dosh and Baker remind residents not to put too much stock in the storm predictions, noting that it takes only one to devastate a community.

They say the best thing residents can do is to be prepared.

Residents can stock up on the supplies they need during this year’s Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, which runs from Friday, June 1 through Thursday, June 7. More information about the sales tax holiday is available on the Florida Department of Revenue website.

More disaster preparedness information is available on the counties’ websites, www.myescambia.com and www.santarosa.fl.gov.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.