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.
Marty Senterfitt, Director of Emergency Management for Monroe County replied to Last Stand’s concerns quickly after receiving our message:
Thank you for your thoughts,
The County EM Team met this morning to discuss this issue. Like you, we recognized the extreme timeline Texas faced. I have asked all of the staff to make processing the lessons learned from Texas our top priority. We will be meeting again in the near future to “tabletop” this issue.
Mayor George Neugent copied Last Stand on a message to Marty Senterfitt:
As we get into the heart of the hurricane season it is important, as you well know, that we keep our constituent’s confidence levels of preparedness up. I know completely that you have been on alert since before June 1, but, would you please respond to this concern of which we are very conscious and have preached about for decades – rapidly developing and intensifying storms – that will continue to be exacerbated by global warming and sea level rise.
I know and have great confidence in our (Monroe County) staff and your ability to address these situations. Thank you in advance.
Mayor, Monroe County
I think honest advice is mandatory when officials recommend an evacuation. None of this “mandatory evacuation” stuff. There are more horror stories from the evacuees than from the stay-behinds. [no gasoline, no motel rooms, stop and go traffic past Orlando, medical emergencies on the highway, car breakdowns, etc]
Pretend that a lot of us may be experienced adults and next time — don’t clamber up on that smarter-than-thou alarmist soap box, Guvernor and commissioners.