While recently traveling down state through the heart of the Florida Peninsula to Fort Lauderdale and back to the Panhandle, West Florida Electric’s Manager of Marketing & Communications, Terry Mullen could only imagine what it would have been like trying to evacuate his family during a major storm like Hurricane Irma. On a normal day, Interstate 75, Interstate 95 and the Florida Turnpike are crowded and can be treacherous to travel. Fortunately, these major roadways are in place and available to use as exits to the north, if needed.
Though there isn’t a major interstate system going north in our immediate area, much progress has been made with work to widen and add lanes to Highways 77 and 79. This roadwork will pay dividends in the future, as it will be very beneficial for evacuations during a major storm in our area.
Just as our line crews were involved in restoration efforts during Hurricane Irma, they have also been involved in these major road projects by relocating and building lines that needed to be moved due to the widening of both of these major northern thoroughfares. The relocation and rebuilding of lines like this have taken crews approximately two months per mile of line needing to be moved. The prolonged time frame for construction was because crews had to build new lines and remove the old ones while keeping the current members’ services energized.
So far, crews have moved approximately 6.6 miles of line on Hwy. 77 and there will be approximately 2.4 additional miles to be relocated when the road is widened through Wausau. On the other hand, WFEC hasn’t been required to move as much line for the widening of Hwy. 79 – the co-op has only moved about one mile so far because most of this roadway runs adjacent to Gulf Power lines. As these roads throughout our area are upgraded and improved, they will be easier to negotiate during storm season if evacuations are necessary. 32744001
The Atlantic Hurricane season started on June 1 and will last through November 30. We’d like to stress the importance of staying alert and aware during this and every storm season. It’s important to be prepared before the storm hits and ready to evacuate should it head our way. We know that predicting Mother Nature is a difficult thing to do, as evidenced by Hurricane Irma’s drastically changing trajectory last year, but preparedness is the key. Being prepared to evacuate your home will help prevent major financial headaches down the road. Here are some steps to take before disaster strikes:
• Fuel vehicles completely.
• Make an itemized list of belongings, including costs, purchase dates & serial numbers. Attach receipts, especially for big ticket items. Insurance companies may require proof of the cost of any item for which you make a claim. Dated photographs or videotapes of possessions are also good ideas.
• Take copies of any legal, financial & medical documents. Include bank statements, insurance policies, mortgage information, credit card addresses and toll-free phone numbers, wills, birth certificates, passports & medical prescriptions.
• Know your insurance company. Write down the names of agents & insurance companies, your policy numbers & telephone numbers to report claims.
• Do you have enough cash? Withdraw money before a pending disaster. Carrying or keeping large amounts of cash in your home can be unsafe, so take out only as much as you’ll need. Financial institutions usually close for at least 2 days after a direct hit by a hurricane & ATMs could be out of commission even longer.
• Do you have enough credit? Keep & protect a credit card with an available balance of at least $1,000. Use credit cards to finance minimal repairs when necessary. Document all transactions.
• Pay bills by phone or online before a disaster hits, even if they aren’t yet due. Hurricanes could interrupt phone service, causing you to miss payments & incur late charges. If you pay by mail, send payments as soon as possible. The U.S. Postal Service will not pick up mail within 24 hours of a hurricane strike. Keep copies of all payments mailed within three days of a natural disaster, if possible. After a storm, contact those you’ve sent payments to & confirm they have received them.
• How can you safeguard your records? Keep insurance/financial papers in secure & accessible places like safe deposit boxes, or with a relative or friend. Include insurance policies, inventory records, agent/company phone numbers for reporting claims, mortgage & other loan contracts & payment records. You might need quick access to this information. If you need to evacuate, take records with you. 44951001
• Make a pet plan. Inquire in advance how & where you can leave your pets; specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics friends & relative out of harm’s way are all potential refuges for pets during a disaster.
These tips along with other hurricane preparedness information can be found online by visiting www.floridadisaster.org. If you have any questions about evacuation routes, storm preparedness, contact your local emergency management office.