By Steve “Stef” Stefanides
Fire Chief Michael Murphy couldn’t have been clearer about his reflections regarding Hurricane Irma; “This is Hurricane Andrew on steroids,” said Murphy when updating the Marco Island City Council at their Tuesday night meeting.
Murphy knows a little bit about that, having spent over three decades in the fire/rescue services in the Broward County area. Broward and Dade Counties were very hard hit in 1992 when the Category 5 hurricane named Andrew came ashore with wind speeds up to 165 mph and causing $26.5 billion in damages.
The entire nation is transfixed on the progress of the storm and Collier County emergency personnel have been gearing up for a week now in preparation for a landfall here in our area and the damage which the storm could bring with it.
On Tuesday a voluntary evacuation order was made for those living in the coastal areas of Collier County, including Marco Island. That order could be upgraded to a “mandatory evacuation notice” should that be deemed necessary.
On Tuesday evening Murphy and Police Chief Al Schettino participated in a statewide conference call with the Governor’s Office as emergency managers from throughout our area discussed some of their concerns and needs. “Governor Scott is very engaged in this process and promised us the full cooperation and support in dealing with the issues surrounding such a catastrophic event,” said Police Chief Al Schettino.
City staff was working on preparing for the worst as they fueled generators and other auxiliary equipment today in preparation for any contingency.
Forecasters with the NOAA Hurricane Center were also working around the clock to update potential tracks for the storm, as FEMA and other agencies were adjusting their plans to deal with the impending arrival of the storm.
“This storm is of exceptional magnitude; it is as large as the entire State of Florida, and regardless of whether it goes to the east coast of our state or the west coast there will be consequences for all our residents,” said Murphy.
Traffic up I-75 was heavy on Tuesday and again today as residents heeded the warnings to take the storm seriously. Most gas stations were without fuel on the island, but gas and diesel were available at stations near 951 and 41.
The full effects of the storm are expected to be felt by Floridians by Sunday or early Monday and Emergency Services Personnel are urging residents to evacuate if they are advised to.
Chief Murphy did seek to dispel some rumors regarding a number of issues;
- Neither the Judge Jolly or Route 92 bridges will be closed, but residents were warned of the dangers of high wind gusts on those spans.
- The city would not intentionally shut down water or sewer services. There may be power outages that could effect to services, however the city will be utilizing portable generators to feed the lift stations and provide minimum disruptions.
- No re-entry stickers are required, however proof of residence must be carried for those returning to the island should damage require a temporary closing of access due to storm damage. A driver’s license and one other form of identification will be necessary.
- Employees of businesses on the island will have to have their names listed on letterhead from that business to regain entry to deal with damages.
- The city’s CODE RED advisory system is the best source of information regarding the conditions existing after the storm and advisories as to the re-opening of the island in addition to any other relevant announcements. Go to the city’s website at cityofmarcoisland.com to sign up for that service if you don’t presently have it. There is no cost.
Some of the latest advisories show an easterly shift in the track of the storm, but forecasters caution residents to stay informed as this is a dangerous event and those tracking models can change on an hourly basis.