Monday, May 16, 2005

Counties In Overdrive To Prepare For Hurricanes

Source: WESH-TV

Orange County Prepares For Worst, Makes Thousands Of New Signs

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Weather experts nationwide are playing the numbers game for the upcoming hurricane season.

Although their predictions may vary, they all agree this will be a rough one, WESH 2 News reported.

The National Weather Service released its 2005 hurricane forecast Monday, calling for 12 to 15 tropical storms in the Atlantic this year. Seven to nine of those are forecast to become hurricanes, and three to five are expected to become monster storms, with winds over 111 mph.

Local authorities are preparing for the worst. In Orange County, workers are making 2,000 stop signs and hundreds of street signs and stockpiling 100 new traffic signals.


New shelter direction signs are already being put in place. All of the work is aimed at quickly replacing damaged signals and street signs at intersections following storms.

"That way, if we have another three-event year, you know we'll have it handled," said highway coordinator Gary Rodgers.

Also, for the first time, Orange County purchased its own plastic barricades -- 200 of them. In a storm's aftermath, they will be placed with stop signs at intersections where signals have been broken or where there's no power.

But experts are worried about one big weakness -- the patchwork of tarps covering damaged roofs that leave people vulnerable.

"If I lived in house that is damaged still and hasn't been repaired from the hurricanes, I would find some sort of professional to give me advice as to whether that house is safe as a hurricane shelter or not," said Bart Hagemeyer, of the National Weather Service.

For storm victims, Orange County is opening its 311 non-emergency hot line beginning June 1.

"We found in the previous hurricanes last summer that people were asking all kinds of questions and we knew right where to send them," said Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty.

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