*WHAT HURRICANES TEACH*
This is Florida. It is prone to hurricanes from both sides of the state and gets more than her fair share of them. Every time they come, they come with forewarning, hints to get, be and stay prepared. Below is a chronology of events which occurred - and some are continuing to occur - in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley's visit...
Hurricane Charley intensifies to Category 4.
Emergency broadcast system activated on all TV and radio stations.
All persons working told to leave their workplace to seek shelter no later than 1300 hours
Grocery shelves are stripped of bread, soft drinks, water, snack foods, peanut butter, charcoal, "C" and "D" batteries, flashlights, coolers, ice, ready-to-eat canned foods, dried fruits and.
Most Florida businesses close at noon, or shortly thereafter.
All Florida theme parks close before noon or do not open at all
Thunder storms follow the path of Charley, keeping crews from starting cleanup and FEMA from getting aid to residents
There are more power poles down than standing. Trees and debris have fallen on top of downed power lines.
Temperatures in the 90's
Note: In Florida, temperatures reach the highs well before noon and last well into dusk. Indoor areas in full sun will retain the heat throughout day and through the night. The heat index often reaches into the 100's.
Heavy debris on main roads along with damaged and shortage of employees prevents Disney's Animal Kingdom from opening
Health officials advise all residents in Central Florida to boil water before consumption
- Ice is rare in any store
- Bottled water remains top priority
- Fallen trees and continued storms prevent cleanup efforts
- Hundreds of thousands without power
- Water unsafe - need to boil before use. Unfortunately, few have ability to receive this public safety message.
- National guard moves in to patrol Fort Myers and Punta Gorda from looting
- Gas stations unable to pump gas without power. Those that have power, run out of gas.
Observation: Too many are unable to get radio or television broadcasts of the dangerous water if they still have running water, or running water has been restored. And those that get the message are apparently unaware the boiling applies to all use - not just for drinking. But then, without power, would the masses be able to accomplish this any way?
- 99% of residents in the direct path of Charley's eye from Fort Myers to Daytona Beach are without power
- With the influx of evacuees, Central FL gas stations run out of gas. Price-gouging begins
8/16 Charlotte County
- 98% of residents without power. Debris has to be removed before power can be restored.
- A list of emergency contact phone numbers are repeatedly aired on radio and television. Too bad the phone lines are down and even if heard, few have access to a working phone.
- A Fire Department responds to a ball field where residents have corralled loose cattle. the firemen use a hydrant to water them
- Schools unable to open - primary roads to schools unsafe
- Delivery of ice and bottled water reach hardest hit areas
- Critical power still out
- "Comfort stations" offering showers, ice and bottled water open in parks, schools, YMCA's offering
- Mold-related respiratory illnesses surface from people still living in their storm-damaged and damp homes - without a means to dry their carpet and upholstery.
- No power, no A/C. Highs in the mid 90's
- Television and radio commercials have been replaced with insurance claim info and steps to finding licensed roofing/building contractors
- Orange County (Orlando) 70% residents still without power
- Osceola County (Kissimmee) 88% still without power
- Schools unable to reopen
- Audubon Society, area wildlife rescue agencies, humane societies are swamped with displaced, lost and orphaned animals from pets to wildlife
8/18 Charlotte County
- Illnesses surfacing from affected areas due to consumption of contaminated water
- Generators being sold in grocery stores, hardware and auto supply outlets
- Scammers attacking gullible victims charging "inspection fees" to draw up a preliminary estimate of damages. Once paid, are never seen again.
- 30% of Orlando still without power - temperatures in the 90's
- Polk County sanitation services have not - nor will resume normal residential waste collection until all secondary roads are cleared of fallen trees and debris
- Antibiotics in demand as doctors treat a myriad of patients with infections started with a scratched mosquito bite or other itch. Many people remain in their homes even without solid walls or window screening to protect them from biting insects.
- Florida Power and Light officials said more than 132,000 homes and businesses remained without power Wednesday, down from a peak of 874,000.
- "Boil water" order is in effect. Few residents have communications to hear this warning
- Nearly 59,000 of those customers were in Charlotte County, including Punta Gorda,
- 14,000 in Lee County, home to Sanibel Island are not only homeless, but what little that remained becomes a target for looters.
- 32,000 FPL customers in Volusia County, around Daytona Beach, have no power
- Home improvement centers begin "sale" on generators.
- Temperatures in the upper 90's. No power, no A/C.
- Power restored to some small percentage of interior Central Florida counties.
- Television, cable remain down - officially dubbed as not a priority
- The FEMA brought in 35 veterinarians from Ohio, Utah, Oklahoma and elsewhere to treat the thousands of animals that resided in the 25 Florida counties declared federal disaster areas
- Dogs have banded together to survive on the streets of Charlotte County having reverted to the pack mentality. Displaced, disoriented and desperate, the once loved and provided-for pets will likely have to be destroyed. Residents are being urged to avoid dogs wandering in groups, regardless of breed
- The Humane Society of Jacksonville distributes pet food, bowls and pet supplies to residents who still have their pets with them - and collects pets found wandering aimlessly when they can. If rightful owners cannot be found, they will be offered for adoption. .
- Charlotte General Hospital reopens the ER after having to treat patients in tents in the parking lots due to the damage it sustained. Temperatures in the mid-90's. No power, no A/C.
- Injuries coming in from first-time users of chain saws and generators
- Other injuries include people burned while on hot roofs, homeowners falling through their roofs and countless strained muscles, sprained ankles and back injuries
- Heat and dehydration related issues abound.
- Thousands of elderly residents lost their prescription medications and are unable to pay to have all of them replaced.
- Deaths still attributed to Charley include a man falling off a roof (that he was trying to repair himself), a man crushed by a tree that fell on him as he was trying to clean up fallen branches and two motorists killed at an intersection with no working traffic signals. Apparently, neither wanted to yield.
37,000 residents in Central Florida still without power.
- Generators now being sold in grocery stores, hardware stores and discount stores
- Generators are still the only source of power in many Florida counties.
- Temperatures in the 90's. No power, no A/C.
- On a back road of Charlotte County is a serpentarium, where researchers routinely collect the venom from nearly 400 poisonous snakes held there. Fortunately, all their snakes are accounted for. Something to think about during a man-made SHTF in areas with similar facilities.
8/23 Charlotte County
- No power, no A/C.
- Second case of West Nile virus in a person is diagnosed in Florida
- Massive deliveries of bug spray make continuous drops in Charlotte County, free to all residents
- Mental Health professionals working around the clock to counsel those who have "lost everything."
- Distraught residents talk about suicide, having nothing left to live for
- Newly purchased generators that don't work "as declared" are not accepted for an exchange or refund
- Generators being plugged into household outlets cause more problems that they solve.
8/27 and beyond
Hurricane Charley was a natural disaster. For the hundreds of thousands of people who were directly and indirectly affected by the devastation of this storm, it was bad enough. But it could have been much worse. And most certainly, it would have been much worse if it had been terrorism rather than a storm.
Hurricane Charley opened a lot of eyes that had previously been closed. Charley showed that there really is merit behind the thoughts of those who prepare. The question is, did they learn from it? Even those who believed they had prepared themselves for power outages hadn't taken into consideration the possibility of:
* long-term loss of power (2 weeks and still not 100% restoration)
* inability to purchase needed items within immediately
* enough stored water to last more than a week
* figuring in the additional water consumption due to relentless heat and humidity
* finances to pay for extended stay in motel
* medications and safe place to keep them (looters have no mercy here, either)
* inabiltiy to make immediate repairs
* inability to protect what remains of their property
* lack of medical facilities - or that the hospitals may go down as well
* a backup system for the backup system
* there is no such thing as too much water
* bug spray - enough to several times daily, every day for a month
* long term food storage and a secure place for it
* long term child care
* long term inability to work - or worse, place of business was blown away, too
* alternative housing
When you figure in a natural disaster coupled with terrorism - and the possibility that more than one state is affected, imagine the consequences. FEMA admitted there had not been a disaster the scope and breadth of the devastation created by Hurricane Charley's sweep across the state of Florida. Still, officials admitted they were woefully understaffed for the size of the task and had it not been for all the other organizations, relief funds and private citizens pitching in to help, their efforts would have been a lesson in futility. This will be the issue ten-fold when the disaster is man-made.
So when you check your preps, really check them. Think of the worst case scenario and prepare for it. I certainly am.
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