South Florida Knows…Storms
Having grown up in South Florida, I have gone through more than 40 Hurricane seasons, storms galore! I prepared for my first potential hit with Hurricane David in 1979. Thankfully, he turned away from the coast sometime in the middle of the night. Now as a high school student and a novice when it came to what damage a hurricane could cause, I remember thinking “boy this is a lot of work.” (I am sure my 17-year-old self, worded it more dramatically with several expletives). We had the old-fashioned hurricane panels that had to be screwed in and it took about five hours to put all of the shutters up. The fact that it also caused me to have to cancel a party I was having was even more upsetting.
Today, with many hurricane preparations under my belt and many, many decades living in a Hurricane prone area, I can say that preparation, not panic, is crucial. Some of my personal preparations were being the host of many a Hurricane Party where family and friends, who lived in evacuation zones, brought food and supplies. Hurricane parties are common in South Florida. They served more as a distraction for our children and, probably for the adults too. Hurricanes, or the potential for a direct hit, are frightening. The 24-hour broadcasts do very little to help keep anxiety at bay. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and when Hurricane Wilma in 2005 hit South Florida, I became, like most that live down here, proficient in a whole new language. Steering winds, cone of uncertainty, El Nino, storm surge, wind shear, wind gusts to name a few.
But like most Floridians, when enough time passes with no major hurricanes, we become complacent about being prepared. For those who have students who are from out of state, the first mention of a potential storm or hurricane and the unknown sends parents into a justifiable panic. When the news starts about a potential storm, it dominates the airwaves (well at least in Florida they do, but they also make national news) well in advance, parents concerns go into overdrive.
The level of panic for in-state residents is equivalent to the category storm being forecast. Floridians seem to look at Cat 1’s with an almost indifference; yet the mere mention of a Cat 3 or higher, and well, nerves are frazzled, palms start sweating and everyone goes into overdrive preparations. Add the fact that we are not with our kids; an emotional storm may also (pun intended) start brewing.
Here is some important information to remember:
- Hurricane Season officially begins June 1st and ends on December 1st.
- Florida gets rainy weather, be it a bad rain/thunderstorm, tropical storm or hurricane, and having certain supplies, is recommended. That would include a flashlight and batteries, bottled water and some non-perishable foods to get through a minimal three days.
- If your student has a vehicle that operates on gasoline, they should fill up. Waiting for the day before a potential storm is due to hit is not advisable as the lines are very long and some gas stations run out of fuel. They should also set the emergency brakes.
- Make sure computers and phones are fully charged and backed up.
- ATM’s do not operate when there are electrical outages so if a potential storm is approaching; make sure they take out cash in advance.
- When Hurricane Matthew caused concern for Orlando last year, even as a person who has lived in Florida for well over 40 years, I advised my friends to have their students get a landline telephone (think the corded ones) as those will often work when electricity is down and cell phone service is interrupted. That is because the power to the phone comes from the phone lines from the power companies which have battery backup and backup generators that can continue for over a week during a power outage. Many of the phone lines are underground, preventing them from being damaged during a storm.
- UCF’s on-campus dorms are NOT shelters. UCF will establish a ride-out plan should it be determined necessary. Students are notified in advance and must bring their photo ID.
- If a storm is approaching Orlando, do not advise your student to get on the road and leave if it is the day before or day of the storm. Orlando will issue evacuation orders if deemed necessary but clogging up roads is dangerous to your student and could leave them stranded at the worst possible time.
- Should your student (or you) have other concerns, they should contact email@example.com.
- UCF sends out ways to stay safe during hurricane season before anything strikes. Students generally receive an email marked something like, “The National Weather Service recently renewed UCF’s StormReady status, which recognizes the university’s enhanced planning, warning system and awareness efforts.” UCF consults with the department of Emergency Management, the Governor, and the UCF President to decide on cancelling classes.
- In addition, in the event of an upcoming storm, UCF always sends out emails and text messages to update students on the severity of the weather and campus closings. They will advise students on the safest places to relocate and for students who had no where to go or were living on campus, UCF will relocate them to safer buildings on campus. For example, if you were in dorm building Nike 101 during the last big hurricane, then you may have been relocated to Classroom Building 1 where staff and other students would have water and a safe place to stay.
None of us can predict the path of a storm or its potential damage and while traditionally, towns and cities centrally located in Florida do not take a direct hit (remember, these storms are coming off the Atlantic or the Gulf), the damage they can cause can be felt quite a distance away, depending on the size of the storm. The past hurricane season brought us a fairly large storm, but UCF handled it and prepared students promptly. They also cleaned up debris (many down trees) and restored electricity as quickly as possible. Additional information on UCF’s storm preparedness can be found below (go ahead and bookmark them in advance)
University of Central Florida Web pages:
UCF Emergency Hotline
Follow UCF on Twitter or Facebook
National Weather Service Briefing Updates