First Hurricane of the Season Takes Aim at Florida

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s crushing impact on the Gulf Coast, Floridians are bracing for the first hurricane of the 2006 season. Ernesto has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but is expected to strengthen again before landfall.

Governor Jeb Bush is urging everyone to heed Katrina’s lessons and take the storm seriously.

All hands are on deck at the Emergency Operations Center as disaster planners gear up for Ernesto’s landfall. With most of the state in the potential strike zone, the trick is getting rescue and relief supplies into position ahead of time.

The fact that Ernesto is bearing down on Florida on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s strike on New Orleans is not lost on Jeb Bush. Katrina hit Florida first, and just like Ernesto, was a minimal-strength storm.

Thousands of South Floridians were caught-off guard, and the governor doesn’t want to see a repeat. “It was a Category 1 storm. People died because they were out in the midst of this storm thinking it wasn’t a potent storm,” he said Monday.

State Emergency Management Director Craig Fugate is also urging people to take Ernesto seriously. Even after Katrina, he says, people still underestimate the potential for disaster. “We will probably lose lives even in a quote-unquote minimal hurricane because people fail to take steps to protect themselves and their families,” he said.

One concern state officials believe they’ve got under control is gas supplies. Fuel supplies in Port are higher than they’ve been going into previous storms, which is one of the lessons learned.

State officials have activated the Florida Emergency Information Line, a toll-free number for Floridians and visitors to call for the latest storm-related information. That number is 1-800-342-3557.

You can also log onto www.floridadisaster.org for the latest advisories and click on “Get A Plan” for a printable, interactive, custom disaster plan for your family or business.


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