Florida Officials Remind Citizens Disaster Planning Needed Year-Round

November 26, 2008

Florida Governor Charlie Crist, signaling the final days of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, urged Floridians to heed the advice of state emergency management officials by planning year-round for emergencies and natural disasters including hurricanes and tornadoes.

The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season that ends this Sunday, November 30, saw 16 named storms – eight of them hurricanes. Five of the eight hurricanes reached Category 3 strength (111-130 mph) or higher. The worst of the storms to affect the state was Tropical Storm Fay, which resulted in the deaths of 15 Floridians.

“We welcome the close of this busy season that has touched the lives of so many Floridians, as well as our neighbors to the south, north and west,” said Crist. “We are fortunate that our beautiful state did not receive a major hurricane impact, but storms such as Fay remind us to never underestimate the power of tropical systems.”

A steady parade of four systems — Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike — threatened Florida within a single month. The State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee was activated for 27 days to support response and recovery operations stretching from the Keys to the Panhandle. In late August, Tropical Storm Fay dumped two to three feet of rain in the Melbourne area and across portions of the Florida Big Bend while spawning 15 tornadoes during a record four landfalls across the state. Rainfall from Fay and the summer wet season helped restore Lake Okeechobee water levels from 9.3 feet in June to more than 15 feet by mid-September.

“The 2008 season was the most active and deadly since 2005. The Caribbean nations just to our south and the United States saw nearly 900 fatalities from these storms,” said State Meteorologist Ben Nelson. “Although much of our state was flooded by Fay, Floridians were fortunate that steering currents narrowly diverted hurricane activity away from the Sunshine State.”

This hurricane season, 41 Florida counties were declared federal disaster areas following damage from Tropical Storm Fay. Six Panhandle counties received the federal disaster declaration for Hurricane Gustav, and Monroe County was declared for federal public assistance following Hurricane Ike. To date, nearly 19,000 Floridians applied for disaster assistance programs. Nearly $28 million in federal disaster assistance and low-interest loans have been approved from Tropical Storm Fay alone.

“Floridians should remember that hazardous weather happens 365 days a year,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Craig Fugate. “Preparedness does not end with the hurricane season. Now is an excellent time to review, update your plans, take inventory of disaster supplies, and recycle goods and batteries.”

With the holidays fast approaching, Fugate offered a few tips for residents who are recycling their disaster supplies. He suggested Floridians make a holiday gift basket for the less fortunate, or donate non-perishable items to local food banks and charitable groups.

As the 2008 season enters the record books, state officials said they want all Floridians to plan to be a survivor before disaster strikes. Emergency managers urged residents to remain prepared through the winter and spring as an emerging La Nina weather pattern forecast for early 2009 may signal cooler and drier temperatures that increase drought and fire conditions in Florida.

The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1, 2009.

Source: State of Florida

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