As Tropical Storm Erika moves closer, I’m reminded of how long it has been since anyone took a hurricane threat seriously in Florida. By most accounts, we haven’t had a ‘serious’ storm since 2004 or 2005. Currently, this storm’s track and intensity do not warrant full-on preparation measures; however, why aren’t people using this storm as a reason to practice?
It goes without saying that stronger storms warrant a well-planned hurricane preparation schedule. The average family will need to restock their pantry with emergency supplies like food, batteries, flashlights, drinking water, etc. Other considerations must be taken by those on prescription medication and those with elderly, very young children, or pets in the family. Plus, it’s Florida, so a lot of people have pools, boats, and outdoor entertaining furniture to deal with.
Erika may bring much needed rain to southeast Florida but it may just as well dump large amounts of rain on saturated central Florida. If Erika’s rain impacts Polk County, I don’t know how bad the flooding would be but if we see anything like the nine inches of rain over six hours, like Dominica just did; there will likely be flooding on Highway 98, in Downtown Lakeland, and in several residential areas of Winter Haven and south Lakeland. Polk County has, for the most part, had a very average year in terms of the amount of rain we’ve seen; however, the ground is saturated from recent afternoon storms.
Personally, I'm very glad we decided to purchase flood insurance this year. As new homeowners we decided that a few hundred dollars worth the investment in our sanity. We've been high and dry compared to other areas of the County but tropical storms have a history of gusty, unstable winds and intense amounts of rainfall. If Erika continues on the current path, I should expect nothing less.
The thought that keeps coming to mind is, “they said Andrew would turn, too.”
To learn how to prepare your boat, home, business, etc for an impending storm, check out UF/IFAS Extension Polk County's hurricane page.