Published On: Sun, Jun 2nd, 2019

A Hurricane Primer for South Florida

By: Robert S Weinroth

Did you know that 900 new residents arrive in Florida each and every day! That means this year, over 300,000 Florida residents will experience their first hurricane season in the sunshine state. The number of new residents making their home in Palm Beach County is approximately 22,000.

For those new residents (and for veterans), I offer this Hurricane Primer.

The names of last year’s two monster hurricanes – Florence and Michael –killed nearly 100 people and caused about $50 billion in damage from Florida north to Virginia. Those names will never be used again having been officially “retired” by the World Meteorological Organization

The list from 2018 will be used again in 2024. The organization will replace Florence with Francine and Michael with Milton.

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season, which officially began on  June 1st already had its first names storm, Andrea.

 In 1953, the U.S. began using female names for hurricanes and, by 1979, male and female names were used. The names alternate between male and female. There are no Q, U, X, Y or Z names because of the lack of usable names that begin with those letters. If more than 21 storms form in one season, such as in 2005, the Greek alphabet is used to name the additional storms.

How to Prepare for the Next Hurricane

First: Between now and June 6th, you can purchase specific Hurricane preparedness supplies, tax free. Clearly, now is the time to get your hurricane supplies. 

Second: Complete a disaster plan before the chaos of an approaching hurricane to ensure you have time to do it right.

The information below is provided along with links to resources designed to assist you in your planning. Take the time to prepare, NOW!

Here are some things you can do today to prepare for the hurricane season:

  • Know Your Zone. Refer to the evacuation maps at Palm Beach County’s Emergency Management’s website, and locate where you live and your evacuation zone.
  • Determine if and when you would have to evacuate.
  • Review the information available on Palm Beach County’s Hurricane Preparedness website and watch the  storm preparedness videos from Palm Beach County’s Storm Watch Team.
  • Decide now where you would go if ordered to evacuate (friend, relative, hotel, out of the region). Only use shelters as a last resort. If you choose to go to a hotel or travel out of the region, you must leave early.
  • Palm Beach County has developed a Hurricane Survival Guide (PDF), which includes key information, such as important phone numbers to have on hand, shelter locations,pet safety information, as well as an Emergency Supply Kit that you should pack before June 1. Organize important papers so you can grab them quickly.
  • Keep your home in good repair. Tack down loose roofing and siding, and trim dead or broken branches from trees.
  • Make improvements needed to increase your home’s safety. Do home improvements during the cooler days of the year. Contact a licensed engineer, licensed contractor or architect to inspect your home for structural integrity.
  • Make plans and purchase materials to protect your home before the threat of a storm (plywood, window protection, plastic sheeting, nails, etc.).
  • Purchase a battery-powered weather alert radio.
  • Inventory your property and store the list with insurance and title papers in a safe place, or send a copy to a relative out of the area. Using a video tape is an excellent way to inventory your home.
  • Make sure your address is clearly marked on your home.
  • Review your insurance policies now, whether you rent or own your home.

While the strength of a hurricane is measured merely by the sustained wind speed, the dangers from hurricanes include much more than wind damage. Hurricanes combine storm surge, high winds, heavy rains and tornadoes in a powerful and devastating combination.

Storm Surge: Storm surge is an abnormal rise in the sea level that can reach up to 100 miles wide. It sweeps along the coast near where the eye of a hurricane makes landfall. This increase in sea level, topped by waves, is the greatest threat to life and property for those living on the coast. Most hurricane-related deaths are caused by drowning.

High Winds: Hurricane force winds can destroy buildings and create missiles from loose debris, and these winds can remain at hurricane force well inland. If you do not have to evacuate, remember to secure your home and cover your windows before the storm. Mobile homes are extremely vulnerable to high winds and should be evacuated regardless of location in Palm Beach County.

Heavy Rains: Torrential rains often in excess of 10 inches can cause destructive floods along the coast and well inland. It is important that you are aware of your flood zone. Remember, your flood zone is not the same as your evacuation zone. Evacuation zones are determined by susceptibility to storm surge. Flood zones are determined by susceptibility to inland flooding from rising groundwater. If your home or street has suffered from flooding in the past, there is a good chance that you are in a flood-prone area. View the Palm Beach County’s Flood Zone Information to learn more about flood zones within Palm Beach County.

Tornadoes: Hurricanes frequently produce tornadoes, which add to the destructive force of the storm. View the Palm Beach County Tornado Information to learn more information on tornadoes.

Seniors living alone in Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Highland Beach are encouraged to tegister with Jewish Family Services: JFS has reactivated its registration for older adults living alone who wish to have someone check in on them before and after a major weather event.

In its second year, The JFS Hurricane Registration process is meant as a safety measure for seniors living alone with no family nearby. This program is meant for seniors not currently receiving services from JFS. Established JFS clients are already part of our Hurricane response. JFS uses pre-screened volunteers, board members and staff to make phone calls and personal visits and is also seeking additional volunteers for their Storm Response Team.

There is no charge to register for this program. Last year, 200 residents or their family members registered for this service and many found it invaluable in helping them feel safe and secure to know someone would be checking in on them and aiding as needed.

Seniors living in Boca Raton, Delray Beach or Highland Beach can register (or their families can register them) for the program by visiting www.ralesjfs.org/stormreg or by calling 561.852.3380.

Want to volunteer? JFS is seeking volunteers to join the JFS Storm Alert Team. Pre-screened and trained volunteers will be deployed after a major weather event to check in on registered participants and to bring supplies as needed. Those wishing to volunteer on the JFS Storm Recovery Team can do so by visiting www.ralesjfs.org/stormvol .

Palm Beach County Special Needs Shelter Program was established to provide for citizens with certain medical conditions during a major emergency. The Special Needs Shelter is a facility with physicians and nurses on staff. It has auxiliary electrical power, is wind resistant, and not flood-prone. The shelter is not a medical facility and provides limited services. The shelter does not provide medication, dialysis, oxygen or oxygen concentrators. General food is provided. Space at these shelters is limited and is based on need and established criteria.

You MUST apply in advance by completing the form online at: www.discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/Pages/Special-Needs.aspx

Or mail it to the Special Needs Coordinator at: 20 S Military Trail West Palm Beach FL 33415

If you are disabled and live in a hurricane evacuation zone and only require transportation assistance in reaching a shelter call Palm Tran Connection for the Special Transportation Assistance Program by calling 561.649.9848 or 877.870.9849 (toll-free).

If you do not qualify for the Special Needs Program and need transportation ONLY to a shelter, the county will provide transportation but you MUST be pre-registered and live in an evacuation zone or mobile; manufactured; or sub-standard home, be physically handicapped or have no other means of transportation.

Call Palm Tran Connection to register at 561-649-9838.

A Pet Friendly Shelter is located inside the West Boynton Recreational Center  (6000 Northtree Blvd., Lake Worth, FL 33463). The shelter is only available to Palm Beach County residents who reside in a mandatory evacuation zone, in a mobile home, or in sub-standard housing. Proof of residency will be required.

All pets must be accompanied by only one owner who will stay inside the Pet Friendly Shelter. All other family members will need to stay at the adjacent human shelter at Park Vista HS. Pets will be housed in a separate area away from where people are sheltered; livestock and reptiles will not be accepted. Space is limited and all food will be provided, so please limit personal belongings to only those essential items that you will need during your stay.

Pre-registration with Animal Care and Control, is required. Please visit www.pbcgov.com/animal for additional information.

There are 15 Hurricane Evacuation Risk Shelters for the general population in Palm Beach County.

In addition, there are two Special Needs Shelters, and, as noted above, one Pet Friendly Shelter.

These shelters are a refuge of last resort; a place to go if you can’t stay at home or with a relative, friend, co-worker or nearby hotel. While shelters are set up in schools, the timing of their opening and locations will be chosen based on the circumstances of the storm. Not all shelters are opened for every storm. Monitor local media for current shelter openings and locations.

Shelters provide simple meals and beverages; if you have special dietary needs or want snacks, you must bring your own. Shelters provide basic first aid only; cots and medical care are not provided. NO smoking, alcohol, firearms, or pets are allowed in Risk Shelters.Each person is given 20 square feet of room.

To learn more visit: www.discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/Pages/Shelters.aspx

If your house is secure, shuttered, and can withstand a hurricane, determine a “safe room” in your residence “Shelter-In-Place.” Make sure family members or a neighbor know that you will be there. DO NOT stay in a room which does not have shielded windows/glass doors. Find an interior room which will help buffer you from the storm’s winds and any flying debris. Rooms without windows – a bathroom, pantry, laundry room, stairwell, hallway or large interior closet are good choices. Safe rooms can also be site-built or manufactured and can be installed in new or existing homes.

For more information visit www.flash.org or www.highwindsaferooms.org. Make sure all family members know where the safe areas are in your home and be sure to take your disaster supplies with you into your safe room.

Hurricanes are a fact of life in Florida. Preparation is key to the safety of you and your family. If ordered to evacuate, staying behind will jeopardize the people who may be called upon to rescue you. Don’t be THAT person who says they are going to ride it out only to be on the phone begging for help when none can be safely dispatched!

About the Author

- Robert Weinroth is a 27 year resident of Boca Raton where he is an attorney, businessman, former member of the City Council (where he served for four years) and currently serves as an elected member of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Weinroth went to Boston’s Northeastern University where he earned a BSBA in Management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Supreme Court of the United States. Weinroth served as president and general counsel of Freedom Medical Services Inc, an accredited medical supply company in Boca Raton. FREEDOMED® represented the realization of an entrepreneurial dream. Weinroth, and his wife Pamela operated the company for 16 years, eventually selling the business in 2016. Weinroth takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the Court. After serving on multiple community boards and committees, Weinroth was elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 2014. During his tenure, he served as CRA Vice-chair and Deputy Mayor and was appointed to a number of county boards including the Boca Raton Airport Authority, the Palm Tran Service Board, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, the Treasure Coast Planning Council and was elected a board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. As a newly elected County Commissioner, Weinroth has been appointed Vice-Chair of the Solid Waste Authority, a board member of the PBC Transportation Planning Agency, and alternate representative on the Treasure Coast Planning Agency and several other county and regional boards. Robert, Pamela and their two dogs, Sierra and Siggy, are proud to call Boca Raton home.

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