Palm Beach County considering evacuation plan ahead of Hurricane Irma
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS 12) —
Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker says the next 48 hours could prove crucial in determining if and when to order evacuations.
Baker says by Thursday morning she expects the county’s Emergency Operations Center to be raised to a Level 2 – Partial Activation.
“Decisions are being made at this time on evacuations and shelters, as well as county operations,” Baker said.
Those decisions, Baker said, will be determined based on the future track of Hurricane Irma.
The storm itself remains a strong Category 5 storm, with winds upwards of 180 miles per hour. The storm itself is nearly 350 miles wide, covering an area that would extend from Miami to Jacksonville.
Palm Beach County Schools, along with school districts along the Treasure Coast, announced schools will be closed Thursday and Friday. Some of those schools will likely be used as shelters.
“Evacuations are dependent on storm surge, not wind speeds,” Baker said.
The greatest concern is for those living in coastal areas and those near Lake Okeechobee.
People are being warned to prepare sooner rather than later.
Tuesday night, President Donald Trump approved emergency declarations for Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The declarations provide federal aid and support in the preparation and response to any impact of Hurricane Irma.
Florida Governor Rick Scott announced Tuesday night that all state offices will be closed Friday.
EMERGENCY SUPPORT FUNCTIONS BY STATE EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM
• Governor Scott activated 100 members of the Florida Air and Army National Guard to support with planning, logistics and operations in preparation for potential impacts from Hurricane Irma. These 100 members are stationed across the state and actively assisting with preparation efforts.
• At the direction of Governor Scott, all 7,000 National Guard members will be reporting for duty Friday morning. Additional guard members will be activated this week as needed.
• In addition, 1,000 high water vehicles, 13 helicopters, 17 boats and more than 700 generators are on standby.
• Florida has air assets and resources from the North Carolina National Guard on standby and is also coordinating with nearby states to assist with evacuations from the Florida Keys.
• The Florida National Guard is coordinating with the National Guard Bureau to identify approximately 30,000 troops, 4,000 trucks, 100 helicopters, and Aero-Evacuation crews that are standing by for Hurricane Irma support, if needed.
• The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is preparing search and rescue teams for potential deployment. All teams that were deployed to Texas have since returned or are in the process of returning.
• The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and other partnering agencies are identifying resources for deployment if necessary to respond to the storm.
• The division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) is monitoring road and traffic conditions to ensure the roadways are clear and working with the Division of Emergency Management to ensure consistent messaging is provided statewide.
• The division of Motorist Services has its Florida Licensing on Wheels (FLOW) mobiles on standby and will deploy them to impacted areas as needed.
• Monroe County has issued mandatory evacuations for visitors beginning tomorrow morning and tomorrow evening for all residents.
• Individuals with special needs will be evacuated from Miami beginning on Wednesday morning.
• Miami-Dade County officials are advising residents living in low-lying areas to start evacuating on Wednesday.
TRANSPORTATION & PUBLIC WORKS
• Governor Scott directed the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to suspend tolls across the entire State of Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma. Tolls will be suspended for the duration of the storm’s impacts to Florida.
• The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is holding teleconferences with districts and agency partners such as the Army Corps of Engineers, Water Management Districts, and Federal Highway Administration to ensure all infrastructure needs are met.
• FDOT will continue to reach out to county emergency operations centers directly to coordinate any necessary response actions, including activating traffic counters, providing local evacuation support and providing maintenance of traffic and other assistance.
• The state is monitoring conditions at all airports and seaports. As of now, there are no closed airports or seaports.
• Governor Scott has rescinded all weight and driver restrictions for highways so water, food, fuel and emergency supplies can be quickly brought to Florida.
• While the state is working with retail partners to fill grocery store shelves with water and other emergency resources as quickly as possible, it is important to be considerate of neighbors and take only what each family needs to be prepared.
• The state is staging mass care supplies such as meals, shelter support trailers and water at the State Logistic Resource Center in Orlando for deployments as needed.
• The state is also establishing local points of contact with mass care organizations and volunteer agencies, including working with the American Red Cross to coordinate sheltering and feeding operations. The American Red Cross has also established a Disaster Relief Operation (DRO) in Orlando.
• The Department of Business and Professional Regulation and Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is running projection models for human-services’ needs (such as food and sheltering) based on a major hurricane impacting the state.
• Volunteer Florida is coordinating with volunteer organizations across the state and has partnered with the American Red Cross to provide shelter operations training to volunteers and AmeriCorps grantees. Floridians who would like to volunteer can register HERE.
• Volunteer Florida has 43 Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) on standby to deploy to areas of need. Many of these teams have begun to work in local call centers and prepare for sheltering assistance.
• American Red Cross teams are arriving into Orlando for staging with 26 tractor trailers at the State Logistics Resource Center, 150 trailers at the State Farmers Market, and 100 emergency response vehicles staging in North Florida. They are also sending 1,000 volunteers.
• The Salvation Army is on standby with 32 cooking units already in Florida and additional supplies awaiting deployment from neighboring states.
• The Florida Baptist Convention has 35 kitchens on standby ready to feed 35,000 meals a day.
STATE OFFICE CLOSURES
• Governor Rick Scott directed state offices to be closed in all 67 Florida counties this Friday in preparation for Hurricane Irma.
• Prior to Friday’s statewide closures, state office closures will follow the direction of county officials and will be announced as they are determined.
• State offices in Monroe county will be closed tomorrow until further notice.
• In partnership with the American Red Cross, salaried, non-essential state employees can receive expedited volunteer certifications for disaster services so that they may assist in or operate shelters in response to Hurricane Irma impacts and preparation. Florida law allows Governor Scott to grant full-time, salaried state employees up to 15 days of administrative leave for emergency volunteer efforts through the American Red Cross. Employees can register HERE.
• The Florida Department of Education is in contact with school districts, state colleges and universities for updates before, during and after emergency events.
• At this time, all school districts and colleges are monitoring Irma and her path.
• Districts are preparing in the case that their facilities are needed for shelters. Colleges are making emergency preparations on their campuses and working with students who may need assistance with relocation.
K-12 Public Schools Closures:
• Broward County Public Schools will be closed Thursday, September 7, and Friday, September 8.
• Collier County Public Schools will be closed Thursday, September 7, and Friday, September 8.
• The School District of Indian River County will be closed Thursday, September 7, and Friday September 8.
• The Lee County School District has cancelled after-school activities Wednesday, September 6. All schools will be closed and after-school activities cancelled Thursday, September 7, and Friday, September 8.
• The Martin County School District will be closed Thursday, September 7, and Friday, September 8.
• Miami-Dade County Public Schools has cancelled after-school activities Wednesday, September 6. All schools will be closed and after-school activities cancelled Thursday, September 7, and Friday, September 8.
• The Monroe County School District has cancelled school and all activities and meetings, beginning Wednesday, September 6 until further notice.
• Sarasota County Schools cancelled all extra-curricular activities for Friday, September 8. School closure decisions will be made tomorrow (September 6) afternoon.
• Hernando County Schools will be closed Thursday, September 7, and Friday September 8.
• St. Lucie Public Schools will be closed Thursday, September 7, and Friday September 8. With the exception of Boys and Girls Clubs and 21st Century programs, all after-school activities are cancelled Wednesday, September 6.
• Volusia County Schools has revised its athletic schedule through Friday, September 8, and cancelled ACT test administrations that were scheduled for Saturday, September 9, at area high schools.
Florida College System Closures:
• Florida Keys Community College has closed the Key West Campus and all centers, beginning Wednesday, September 6 until further notice.
• Miami Dade College will be closed Thursday, September 7 – Sunday, September 10.
State University System Closures:
• Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University are cancelling classes for Wednesday, September 6 – Sunday, September 10, with staff reporting to offices Wednesday, September 6, to make necessary preparations. At this time, residential students will be allowed to shelter in place.
BUSINESS, INDUSTRY, & ECONOMIC STABILIZATION
• The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and the Division of Emergency Management (DEM) created an event in the Florida Virtual Business Emergency Operations Center (FLVBEOC) for Hurricane Irma and are currently updating with up-to-date storm information, situation reports and resources for the business community. FLVBEOC is available at www.flvbeoc.org.
• The state has activated the Private Sector Hotline at 850-815-4925. The hotline is available for business inquiries about the storm, preparedness information and post-impact information.
• The state is conducting daily Private Sector conference calls to provide situational awareness and to address concerns of private sector partners.
ELECTRIC & NATURAL GAS UTILITIES (Public Service Commission)
• Utilities have been put on notice to start reporting outage and restoral information when notified to begin.
• Utilities are contacting their mutual aid partners to determine availability if external resources are needed to restore services.
• The state is monitoring the power grid for sufficient power and the natural gas infrastructure for any damages that can cause a loss of service to power plants.
• The state is also requesting utilities to identify any staging areas needed outside of Florida and requesting the status of all nuclear facilities in the event a shutdown is necessary.
• Memos for several gas companies to have access to their facilities have been issued.
• VISIT FLORIDA has been in contact with all destination marketing partners and emergency contacts and has activated the Homepage Banner and Florida Now page on visitflorida.com to advise consumers.
• Through VISIT FLORIDA’s partnership with Expedia, Expedia.com/Floridahas been activated to provide accommodations availability information for visitors, residents and first responders.
• The Department of Financial Services and the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) has activated its internal Incident Management Team (IMT) for coordination of activities related to Hurricane Irma and is preparing to respond to deployments as needed, and prepared to order property insurers to submit claims information from Hurricane Irma.
• Additionally, in response to the Governor’s Office Executive Order, OIR has notified all entities writing health insurance in the state of their statutory obligation to allow for early prescription refills. OIR is also coordinating with the Agency for Healthcare Administration and Department of Health.
• Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is encouraging all Floridians to keep all insurance and banking information in one, easily-accessible place. Consumers can download a copy of the Department’s free Emergency Financial Preparedness Toolkit. The Toolkit serves as a one-stop shop for all finance, emergency and insurance contact information. Download and complete the toolkit today.
• Consumers with questions about their policies and those who need help filing a claim should call the CFO’s free Insurance Consumer Helpline at 1-877-693-5236.
• OIR has updated its “Hurricane Season Resources” webpage, which contains links to information provided by the Governor, Chief Financial Officer, Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture, Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program, and contact information for Florida’s property insurers.
• The state is contacting fuel industry partners (e.g., Florida Petroleum Council, Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association); there are no reported supply, distribution or retail fuel shortages or issues.
• The state is monitoring fuel assistance requests and has contacted emergency fuel and equipment providers for status of emergency fuel supply and equipment.
• While the state is working with fuel partners to bring fuel to communities as quickly as possible, it is important to be considerate of neighbors and take only what each family needs to be prepared.
PUBLIC HEALTH AND MEDICAL
• The Florida Department of Health (DOH) is coordinating with hospitals and healthcare facilities across Florida on potential evacuation needs.
• DOH is preparing to set up and coordinate staffing for special needs shelters.
• The Agency for Persons with Disabilities’ regional offices are contacting providers and waiver support coordinators to ensure APD customers have a hurricane plan in place.
• The state has contacted telecommunications partners to activate protective action plans and procedures for Central Offices, tower sites, mobile response units and any other critical infrastructure.
• Telecommunications Partners are monitoring fuel levels for generators and back-up power supply.
• The state is drafting 24-hour staffing schedules and all Telecommunications remain on standby to respond if required.
• At this point, there are no out of ordinary reports of any major outages.
• The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) staff is currently conducting baseline shoreline assessments to help evaluate beach impacts.
• DEP is reaching out to drinking, wastewater and hazardous waste facilities to help ensure preparation steps are being taken.
• All state parks remain open at this time, but no new camping reservations will be accepted for the next 10 days.
• The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has begun a pre-storm drawdown that includes water releases from Lake Okeechobee. The Corps anticipates the releases will last a short time, with future water management decisions dependent on the water level in the lake after the storm passes.
• Routine inspections of the Herbert Hoover Dike are taking place and additional inspections will begin once the lake approaches 17 feet. The lake level is currently at 13.67 feet.
• The South Florida Water Management District has begun lowering water levels in canals and moving as much water as possible to tide and south through flood control structures throughout its flood control system in preparation for the storm.