Last Stand is calling on the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners to direct county-wide emergency management planners to revise hurricane evacuation procedures to better assure the safety of residents and visitors to the Florida Keys. Hurricane Harvey is the wake-up call that residents and visitors could be prevented from driving out of the Keys to safety. We need to know what options are available that will mitigate loss of life when a rapidly intensifying storm brings high winds, storm surge and flooding.
The timeline of the National Weather Service advice on Hurricane Harvey clearly demonstrates that Monroe County will not always have a 48 hour window to phase evacuation of tourists and residents. From the first hurricane warning issued at 4:00 AM Thursday it was 32 hours to Friday noon when tropical force winds hit the Texas coast. By 10:00 PM Friday, the eye of this massive storm made landfall only 42 hours after the first warning.
Monroe County evacuation plans call for tourists, the military and residents in mobile homes to begin evacuating 48 hours before tropical storm force winds arrive. The best case assumption is the roads will be cleared by the time permanent residents leave in the second phase at 24 hours prior to landfall. The statewide evacuation model, using assumptions approved by DEO, the county and municipalities, calculated that it will take exactly 24 hours to evacuate permanent residents after tourists are gone. But that planning model only calculates the time required to clear the Monroe County line, where it is likely we will join Miami-Dade County as they flee the coastline to safer locations.
Last Stand is recommending that the county emergency management team immediately work through a desk-top exercise with the actual warning timeline from Hurricane Harvey. Then we need a clear communication of the best available options. Let’s not wait until the pressure of the moment makes a difficult situation even worse.