Our Florida Hurricane Weather.
Having moved to South Florida as a teen, I have gone through more than 35 Hurricane seasons. I prepared for my first major Hurricane in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew made landfall about 10 miles south of the University campus. I was living with my parents not far from Coral Gables, and our home sustained major Hurricane damage. I know what it’s like to lose power for a week, it’s tough in those hot summer months. I know what it takes to prepare and survive a hurricane and like most natives (or almost natives like me), we take a potential threat to our community very seriously. 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. Hurricanes, or the potential for a direct hit, are frightening. The 24-hour news cycle and social media 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.
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 serve more as a distraction for our children and, probably for the adults too. Kids in dorm rooms love to have Hurricane parties! I can remember my mom telling us in college how to prepare, what to buy, how to pack everything up. Start your student off at the beginning of the fall semester with the essentials they may need immediately (See prep list below). It really is fun hanging out with your friends and laughing about it afterward if the storm passes you unscathed. But don’t ever let your guard down, and more importantly, your child’s guard down when it comes to Hurricane prep.
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 about a potential storm starts dominating the airwaves (well at least in Florida they do, but they also make national news) well in advance, parents concerns go into overdrive. But rest assured, the University does a thorough job preparing and helping the students weather the before, during and post-storm preparations.
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 with a looming and threatening storm, and well, an emotional storm (pun intended) starts brewing.
It was just last Hurricane season that Hurricane Irma impacted Miami and much of the state. University officials went into emergency planning mode, even postponing the most exciting game of the year, UM vs. FSU game. And while many questioned whether that decision was necessary, it was the decision to put the safety of people first. The university makes it their first priority to keep students, faculty, and parents safe and well informed at all times. Throughout the entire process of Hurricane Irma from the planning stages to the immediate aftermath and the week’s post-Hurricane, the University continuously provided updates regarding when classes would begin when the dorms would open and updated academic calendars for missed classes and graduation ceremonies.
So here is some important information to remember:
- Hurricane Season officially begins June 1st and ends on December 1st.
- Florida, especially Miami 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, some non-perishable foods, and manual can opener and any daily medications your student may take to get through a minimum of three days.
- Pack a small bag with at least 3 days of clothes and personal items.
- Locate all of their important documents and keep them together in weather-proof, ziplock bags such as school id, social security cards, passports, driver’s licenses, student visas, etc.
- Make sure computers and phones are fully charged and backed up. It is a good idea to buy your student a backup cell phone booster charger. I have one that can charge my phone up to 3 times. (Makes a terrific graduation gift).
- If your student has a vehicle that operates on gasoline, they should fill up. Waiting until 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 during the storm.
- If your student has a yearly campus parking pass they are permitted to secure their vehicles inside the University of Miami campus parking garages prior to the storm.
- ATMs 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 Irma caused concern for Miami last year, even as a person who has lived in Florida for well over 40 years, I advised my daughter that lived off-campus to 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.
- Campus housing is designated shelters for campus residents unless the storm has a forecasted path towards Coral Gables and then the students may be transported to off-campus shelters, which will be coordinated by the university. They use other campus facilities on an as-needed basis should off-campus students and emergency staff need it. The university takes every precaution to ensure the safety of their students including keeping them informed.
- If a storm is approaching Miami, do not advise your student to get on the road and leave if it is the day before or day of the storm. Miami / Coral Gables will issue evacuation orders well in advance of the storm for proper coordination and if deemed necessary. Clogging up roads is dangerous to your student and could leave them stranded at the worst possible time.
None of us can predict the path of a storm or its potential damage. These storms are coming off the Atlantic or the Gulf, the damage they can cause can be felt up and down the Florida coast depending on the size and location of the storm. Throughout the storm preparation and in the aftermath, students, faculty, and staff are kept well informed of vital school information using the ENN. The University of Miami Emergency Notification Network (ENN) is the comprehensive communications solution that allows the University to quickly disseminate an urgent message through multiple communication mediums. If there is a condition which significantly threatens the health and safety of persons on campus or impacts normal campus operations, university officials will warn the campus community using one or more of the following methods:
SMS Text Messages to Cell Phones
Voice Messages to Cell PhonesEmail
Emergency Information Hotline 1-800-227-0354
UM Website Banners: www.miami.edu
UM Emergency Preparedness Web page: prepare.miami.edu
UMiami Mobile App: www.miami.edu/mobile
RSS Feed: http://www.getrave.com/rss/miami/channel1
Campus Cable TV (Gables & Medical Campuses Only)
Outdoor Warning Sirens (Gables Campus Only)
Public Address (Gables Campus Bldgs. & Outdoor Areas Only)
Digital Signage (Select Gables Campus Buildings Only)
WVUM The Voice 90.5 FM
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