Welcome to Florida. It’s hurricane season, and if you haven’t been through one with us yet, hang on. I’ve been here since 1999 in Palm Coast (’98 if you count our first year in St. Augustine and was actually born in Tampa) and have been through a few of these. The most significant was Hurricane Matthew in 2016, hunkered down in a shelter at Bunnell Elementary School with the kids and watching A1A fall into the ocean as a resident ventured out to survey the initial damage.
Needless to say in Florida we do it all. From hurricane parties to evacuation. If you’re new here, and there are quite a few transplants who now call Flagler County home, here are a few things to remember.
- Get your ‘GO BAG’ ready. We always have one ready during hurricane season for each of us. It’s a backpack with AT LEAST one change of clothes and extra undergarments and socks, all in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag(s). We each have a book, notepad or crossword/word search in a Ziploc with pens/markers in our bag along with toiletries like a toothbrush, bar of soap, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, travel size shampoo, and toothpaste. The basics you’d need if you lost everything or had to run on the fly. Don’t forget any medicines and really important paperwork. Hopefully at this point you’re saving or scanning things in the cloud but if not, be sure it’s in a Ziploc too. We also have a small medicine kit with band aids, aspirin, tiny scissors, and a flashlight.
- If the storm hits and you’re at home be sure you have the regular list like flashlights, batteries, candles, a lighter, water, canned food (with a pull top if you don’t have an old fashioned can opener). On the canned food, remember, it could be several days before your power comes back on so pick stuff you can eat cold if you had too, and isn’t too salty. No power, no air conditioning, and rationing water, you get dried out pretty quickly. Fresh fruit and individual drinks like Capri Suns break up the monotony of soda or water.
- Listen to the LOCAL updates from the Flagler County Emergency Operations Center. They have the latest news and post on social media in addition to sending out information via the ALERTFLAGLER app. Other social media GO-TO locations: National Weather Service (JAX), Flagler County Emergency Management, Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, Flagler Beach Police Department (Chief Doughney keeps this very active/updated and advises on beachside access), and the City of Palm Coast. You can also tune into the Flagler Radio app on WNZF NewsRadio 94.9 FM.
- Know Your Zone & More. The State of Florida has an excellent Division of Emergency Management website at FloridaDisaster.org answering any number of questions you may have to prepare and ones you may not even have thought of. In fact, the state’s Division of Emergency Management Director is Kevin Guthrie, who was previously Flagler County’s Director of Emergency Management, so you know we’re in good hands.
- Don’t panic. Yes, the shelves at the store will be intermittently empty and you may have to wait in line for gas. Please be patient and nice to the grocery store and convenient store workers. They have no control over the supply chain. Our state has a stellar track record of deploying supplies where needed, getting gas to the stations and staging crews to help in disaster areas while working with the power companies to get things back up and running. If you have to go to a shelter, it’s ok. They will provide you with meals, a place for you and your family to wait out the storm, and you’ll get to meet neighbors from across the community. Take your GO BAG, pillows, blankets and things to do.
Leading up to it, you’ll see plenty of silly memes and jokes, and it’s our way of handling the situation. It takes the edge off. But if there’s anything you should take comfort in, this is one of the most caring, supportive communities when it comes to situations like this and if for some reason it does head this way and impact us, we’ll all be on the other side waiting to pitch in and help.