Not more rain! While much of the country endures staggering drought conditions, we in Florida have “enjoyed” one of the rainiest seasons in recent memory. According to the National Weather Service, Pensacola has now received just under 55 inches of rain, a nearly 30% increase from our typical 42 inches by this time of year. Just as a lack of rain causes severe issues, excess rain can cause flooding, mosquito problems, and erosion.
With Tropical Storm Isaac bearing down on the Panhandle, another foot of rain plus the rising waters of a storm surge could wreak havoc on low-lying areas. If you live on the water, in a flood zone, or have been through hurricanes before, you are likely accustomed to moving boats, bringing in outdoor grills and furniture, and otherwise being prepared.
However, it’s important that everyone has an evacuation plan in case the storm increases in intensity. Keep in mind the northeast quadrant of a storm receives the brunt of the storm’s force, so landfall just to the west of your community would cause the most significant impacts in your town.
Even those not in severe flood zones would be wise to prepare for power outages, downed trees, and long lines at the gas station and grocery store. If you have a generator, be sure to start it up ahead of time to make sure it is in working order, and keep enough gasoline on hand to enable it to run. Getting cash from an ATM is important as well, because with power outages, ATM’s don’t work and stores can’t take credit cards.
Keep in mind that FEMA relief is often not available for several days after a storm, so have at least 3 days’ worth of water, food, and non-electronic activities available for your family and pets or livestock. While as a community we likely suffer from a collective post-traumatic stress disorder from the last big “I” storm to hit in 2004, it’s important to stay calm and do your best not to pass on worry and anxiety to children. Something as uncontrollable as a hurricane can be overwhelming for small children, and kids feed off their parents’ worries. Help kids make their own activity bags and give them small jobs to help them feel more control of the situation.
UF IFAS Extension has numerous resources for hurricane planning and aftermath, along with a Windstorm Mitigation building in Escambia County with examples of ways to protect your home during a storm. We have tree, agriculture, and food safety experts who can answer your questions, so please don’t hesitate to contact our office at 850-475-5230.