The population of Santa Rosa County continues to increase every year. Within the new members of our community are people who have never experienced a hurricane or tropical storm landfall. We'd thought we would take a few minutes to offer the story behind the story of hurricane season.
First, do all the things the experts say to do when a direct or nearby landfall is expected. They aren't kidding.
The landfall is scary and requires many decisions to be made. Whether to evacuate or stay should be a no-brainer based on the power of the storm. If you are in an evacuation zone, we highly support getting out when the alert is issued. Why, you might ask? Because if the house survives the winds and large trees falling on it, you might not enjoy the potential flooding and the way it feels when the water lifts your house off its foundation and carries it down the street. If your house doesn't become a boat, the floodwaters will enter your home and you might find yourself looking for the attic access to save your life and the lives of your family members. If your attic fills with water, your roof may become your haven and nobody wants that.
If you decide to stay, get the supplies emergency management officials say you need. As a matter of fact, go get them now. Have you walked through a grocery store when a tropical cyclone is projected to hit your town? The bottled water, bread, batteries, canned meats, Spaghetti-Os, coolers, ice, sodas, charcoal, flashlights...they all disappear within 24 hours. Turn your refrigerator and freezer temps down as low as possible so when the power goes out, your food will last longer. Once you know the power will be out longer than your refrigerator will stay cold, move perishables to the freezer, then to the grill to cook your meats that might go bad. Share the food with your neighbors and family.
If you don't have small children who could drown in a bathtub of water, fill your bathtub with water for flushing toilets. Fill your kitchen sinks. Fill the gas tanks on your vehicles. Even if you don't need the gas to evacuate, a few minutes in a cool car after a week or two with no power can be very refreshing. We don't recommend sleeping in a car, however, due to deadly exhaust fumes—whether the vehicle is in a garage or not. Don't use candles for lighting your home. Flashlights, lanterns, those half-globe lights you can hang on your walls...they are great. But a lot of them take batteries, so stock up now. Generators put off deadly fumes as well, keep them away from your house. Never, ever run them inside a home or garage. Don't store gasoline in your garage or any structure attached to your home. After the storm, watch out for those chainsaws and power tools. There are often more injuries from the clean up activities after a storm hits than from the storm itself.
When Hurricane Ivan hit Santa Rosa County in 2004, it blew the leaves off the trees. The birds were gone. Homes were destroyed and people died. There was no electricity to homes in some areas for almost three weeks. In other words hurricanes and tropical storms—even if they are not deadly, are an inconvenient pain in the butt.
Tropical Storm Andrea missed us, but it appeared she was waiting until the June 1 start of hurricane season to begin her trek. It's here folks. It's unpredictable. It messes up our daily routines and it can destroy lives. It can have us running in less than a day or two.
Pay attention. Don't shrug it off. Inconvenient or potentially deadly, pay heed to what the experts with Santa Rosa County Emergency Management have to say. Watch the Weather Channel or your favorite weather information media. Do what they tell you. And we'll all have a great summer.