According to a recent study, most Florida counties lack space in hurricane shelters for a major hurricane evacuation.
The Naples Daily News reported Sunday that Southwest Florida has the highest shelter shortage and is especially vulnerable because of low-lying land and proximity to large water bodies.
The 2014 study by Florida’s Division of Emergency Management found Lee County does not have room for any of the projected 64,000 residents that would evacuate in a Category 4 or 5 storm and Collier County could only accommodate 5,784 of the expected 25,568 evacuees in a major storm.
Local officials say the study gauged worst-scenarios with the highest storm surges and winds that could hit their low-lying counties. They say each storm is different and they have contingency plans for various scenarios.
“It’s not anything we’re afraid to mention or we hide. It’s OK. That’s our job to plan in the worst case,” said Dan Summers , director of Collier County’s Bureau of Emergency Services.
Every hurricane is different, and that impacts shelter demand, said Sandra Tapfumaneyi, of Lee County Emergency Management.
“‘s hard to say (there’s a shortage) because it depends on how many people are seeking shelter during any given storm,” Tapfumaneyi said.
Most of its shelters in Lee County lie below the 23-foot elevation deemed safe from flooding during a major event.
Lee public safety officials recommend shelters a last resort. The best thing to do is to get to higher elevation, which might mean heading to another part of the state, Tapfumaneyi said.
Hurricane Charley was a Category 4 storm when it slammed Southwest Florida in August 2004 near Cayo Costa, just north of Captiva. It was the strongest storm to hit the state since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
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