SWFL, state prepare for TS Erika

Author: Stanley B. Chambers Jr.
Published: Updated:

MIAMI – More than 8,000 National Guardsmen and emergency responders have been mobilized in case Tropical Storm Erika strengthens into a hurricane or causes significant damage, Gov. Rick Scott said Friday.

“The biggest concern now is how much land it’s going to go over,” he said. “We have concerns all across the state now because it’s going to come clear across the state.”

Scott mobilized the emergency responders statewide after placing Florida under a state of emergency Friday morning.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has activated the state price gouging hotline for reports of sudden price hikes for gasoline, water, propane, radios, lumber and other supplies.

Schools in Hendry County are closed Monday due to flooding concerns, Superintendent Paul Puletti said. Other Southwest Florida school districts are expected to announce their plans over the weekend.

Hendry County is under a precautionary state of emergency. County offices will be closed on Monday, along with government offices in LaBelle and Clewiston.

“We do not expect this to be a high wind event but the potential for heavy rains and localized flooding are driving these precautionary measures,” county officials said in a statement.

Collier County has partially activated its emergency operations center, where staff is checking on equipment and various processes, said Dan Summers, county emergency services director.

“This is really a very unique situation and we really wont know a lot until we see this storm come off of the Cuban coast and see how it will affect Southwest Florida,” he said.

Collier County commissioners will meet on Saturday to determine whether to place the county under a state of emergency.

TS Erika is expected to move over Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Friday, WINK News meteorologist Mary Mays said. The storm will encounter wind shear and could potentially weaken while over land.

“If Erika holds together it will potentially affect our area as a tropical storm by Monday, bringing mostly gusty wind and heavy rain,” she said. “There is still a lot of uncertainty in both the track and intensity of Erika.”

Mays will answer questions about the storm during a live Q&A on WINK News’ Facebook page at 5:10 p.m. today.

If the storm continues moving west, the state could receive more rain, Scott said. Even if the storm doesn’t develop into a hurricane, Scott advised residents to be prepared.

“Think about your entire family,” he said. “Make sure every member of yoru family is ready. Do you have a plan? Do you have any special needs? If you potentially need shelter, know where your shelters are.”

Residents should have three days of food and water, as well as ensuring their medicines are accounted for, Scott said.

No evacuations have been declared as of Friday afternoon, but Scott advised residents to look out for updates.

“We’re just in a state of readiness and watching the storm,” he said.

Local preparations
  • The Bonita Springs Fire Department offered free sandbags outside Station #4 Friday afternoon. The station is located at 22701 Bonita Grande Dr. in Bonita Springs. Residents had to fill the sandbags themselves with a limit of 25 sandbags per household.
  • The Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District also offered free sand and sandbags on Friday. The items were available next to Station One, located at 5700 Pine Island Rd. in Bokeelia. Residents were responsible for filling their own bags with a 25 sandbag limit.
  • Five self-serve sandbagging stations have been established around Hendry County (residents must bring their own shovels):
    • North LaBelle – Bob Mason Park on County Road 78.
    • LaBelle – LaBelle Rodeo Grounds, the parking lot on State Road 29 South.
    • Felda – Felda Volunteer Fire Department, the corner of County Road 830 and Willis Ranch Rd North.
    • Montura-Flaghole – Montura-Flaghole VFD, the parking lot on Avenida Del Club.
    • Clewiston – City of Clewiston Public Works Yard on South Olympia Street.
  • The South Florida Water Management District lowered canal levels across the region to help alleviate any flooding and will close the Clewiston Lock on Sunday, which serves Lake Okeechobee.
  • The Edison & Ford Winter Estates ill be closed on Monday.
  • Lee County transportation and natural resources officials are lowering DOT-maintained weirs in key canals and clearing debris from stormwater drains.
Be prepared
  • Have a disaster plan (alternate travel routes, household evacuation strategy, etc.)
  • Stock up on supplies (non-perishable food items, water, medications, charging electronics, filling vehicle gas tanks and gas containers for generators, etc.)
  • Build an emergency kit (flashlights, batteries, first aid supplies, portable radio, etc.)
  • Stay informed (watch WINK News for storm updates)
  • Questions about price gouging? State Attorney General Pam Bondi has a list of frequently asked questions
Tips for driving on wet roads
  • Make sure tires are properly inflated
  • Slow down and leave room in between vehicles
  • Avoid cruise control
  • Avoid standing water and flooded roads
  • If your vehicle stalls in a flooded area, do not stay in the vehicle

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