We’re still a few months away from Hurricane Season ’05 and the inevitable cones of depression, TV teases of trepidation and file footage of Punta Gorda as a wind tunnel. But it’s never too soon, as we know, to start preparing.
This year, however, the preparations will seem a lot less theoretical. Bullet-dodging will do that. And the prep work, as we are now discovering, transcends bottled water, batteries and insurance inventories. It now includes serious evacuation scenarios.
According to a Florida State University study of evacuations in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Manatee counties last summer, nearly half the residents didn’t abide orders to leave a Category 1 evacuation zone.
“A large percentage of people stayed in a high storm surge area,” pointed out Gary Vickers, the director of Pinellas County’s Department of Emergency Management. “There could have been a high body count.”
While there will always be those who hope for the best and choose to ride out a Hurricane Charley, that wasn’t the most sobering facet of the FSU study. Only 60 per cent of the residents ACTUALLY KNEW there was an evacuation ordered. A third of those didn’t know it was mandatory.
In other words, four out of 10 residents – despite blanket television and radio coverage and countless news conferences – had not idea they were supposed to leave.