Thursday, May 19, 2005

City of Sanibel Issues Storm Passes

Source: The News-Press

New cards part of changes for 2005 hurricane season

New hurricane ID passes and re-entry permits will be required for Sanibel residents returning to their homes if a hurricane forces them to evacuate this year.

The new documents — along with better education on the dangers of storm surge and emphasis on pre-registering residents for special needs shelters — are among changes made by Sanibel officials to their 2005 hurricane plan.

The plan was released today on the city's Web site, www.mysanibel.com.

The update comes as other counties and communities throughout Southwest Florida hone their hurricane plans in preparation for the start of the 2005 season, just 12 days away.

Sanibel was sideswiped by Hurricane Charley and the tiny barrier island garnered kudos and an award from the National Hurricane Conference for its communication and flexibility in handling the evacuation and re-entry of residents.

"We spent the last nine months focusing on areas where we could improve," Judie Zimomra, Sanibel city manager, said at a meeting late Wednesday.

The city needed new hurricane ID cards and re-entry passes because the old ones were easily duplicated, said Bill Tomlinson, Sanibel police chief.

The new documents are made of heavy stock paper, laminated, and numbered, with the numbers entered in a database.

They are neon green for property owners and residents and neon pink for commercial.

"The easier we can recognize it, the easier we can get people

back on the island," Tomlinson said. "We want to make sure we can get people back on as quickly as possible if we evacuate them."

The ID cards are wallet-sized and have information on the back, including the city's Web site and hotline phone number.

The re-entry permits hang from a vehicle's rear-view mirror and have evacuation information on the back.

The island has been divided into zones for the city's damage assessment team, and the documents will each have a zone number, Zimomra said. This way, depending on the amount of damage on different areas of the island, the city could opt for a zoned re-entry, she said.

Residents also need to be educated about the potential for storm surge in a hurricane, Tomlinson said.

"Last year we had a big wind storm and little storm surge. We want people to know each storm is different. We want people to know storm surge is the most devastating part of a hurricane."

Hurricane Charley was expected to hit Charlotte County with a 15- to 17-foot storm surge that didn't materialize because of the storm's extreme compactness.

The average elevation on Sanibel is three to four feet, Tomlinson said. If that same storm surge hit Sanibel, all buildings would be submerged, he said.

The city is also urging all residents who qualify for Lee County's special needs shelter to pre-register for it. This includes people who are on kidney dialysis, or have other medical needs or disabilities, he said.

Last year, only seven Sanibel residents signed up for the shelter, Tomlinson said. Responding to 911 calls for residents with special needs after the storm took emergency crews away from the main recovery effort, he said.

While Sanibel refines its hurricane IDs and permits, Charlotte County officials worry about how to tweak a hurricane plan for a county still recovering from a major storm.

"We may have to throw all our thinking out the window," said Wayne Sallade, Charlotte County emergency management director.

Sallade said if another hurricane hits, he could wind up going to the board of commissioners earlier than "normal" to obtain approval to evacuate because of the county's weakened condition: Hundreds of blue tarps still on roofs, 1,300 people still living in FEMA villages and travel trailers in driveways of homes that have yet to be demolished.

In Fort Myers, the major change is the decision to gather all city department heads or their alternates together in one regional emergency operations center so that everything will operate more smoothly, said Assistant fire Chief Randy Jordan.

"Current plans call for even the city switchboard to be transferred to that station during the actual emergency. All major decisions and policies will come out of that EOC," Jordan said.

The location will be Fire Station 5 on Treeline Road, the station with the highest elevation, he said.

Updates in hurricane/emergency management plans

Lee County:

• Be more flexible, depending on extent of damage, when letting evacuated residents return to view their property

• Develop method to estimate water and ice needs more accurately so they can be provided more quickly to victims.

• Develop pre-disaster agreements with vendors so county can "push" relief supplies quicker to disaster victims.

Source: John Wilson, county public safety director

Fort Myers Beach:

• Four possible locations have been chosen to use as off-island staging areas/information centers in case of hurricane evacuation. The specific location used will vary depending on conditions after the storm.

• WINK/WNOG radio, 1240 or 1270 AM, will provide updates on town conditions every hour at 10 minutes past the hour.

• Town's Web site, FMBeach.org, and town's hotline, 765-0919, ext. 140, will have continuous updated information.

• Town's annual hurricane preparedness seminar will be evening of Aug. 2 at Chapel-by-the-Sea on Estero Boulevard.

Source: John Gucciardo, Fort Myers Beach deputy town manager

Sanibel:

City will hold three hurricane seminars for residents at the BIG Arts Center at 900 Dunlop Road.

• From 1 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 22

• From 9 to 11 a.m. on Thursday, June 23

• From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 25

• Besides the city's Web site, residents may also contact the Sanibel Police Department at 472-3111 for information on the city's hurricane plan, or call the city's hurricane hotline at (800) 933-6093 for updates.

Source: City of Sanibel

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