By Mary Thurwachter
Who can forget Hurricane Wilma, the menacing Category 3 of 2005 that sneaked up on us from the southwest and left us without power for days?
Now here we are smack dab in the middle of another hurricane season that experts
predict to be busier than usual and we wonder what, if anything, has changed to
help us navigate another big storm.
There’s nothing we can do to prevent a hurricane from blowing our way, but some
improvements have been made to help us better cope with a storm.
For starters, several grocery stores and filling stations have installed back-up
generators, so that we shouldn’t have to drive 20 miles or more, wait in line
and cross our fingers that we will be able to fill up our tanks or restock our
pantries after the storm.
Of course, not all filling stations have generators, and that includes Vin’s
Gulfstream Texaco at 5002 N. Ocean Blvd., near Briny Breezes, the only gas
station east of the Intracoastal Waterway.
However, with the loan of a generator during the last hurricane, the station was able to provide gas to employees of Bethesda Memorial Hospital. The station is likely to do the same for the next hurricane, says manager Vin Dinanath, whose wife works at the hospital. But since Vin’s is in an evacuation area, Dinanath and company will skedaddle like the rest of us before any hurricane strikes the barrier islands.
In Highland Beach, a large generator has been added to serve municipal buildings
since Wilma, said Town Clerk Beverly Brown. In case of a power outage, the
generator will provide power to all three municipal buildings — Town Hall, the
water plant and the library.
In Lantana, The Carlisle Palm Beach, a luxury retirement living facility, added
generators so power will be up and running quickly. Before a hurricane strikes,
residents will be bused to the Carlisle in Naples, according to spokeswoman
The Ritz-Carlton in Manalapan has had a generator since it opened in 1991. The
generator, said Christine DiRocco, director of public relations, will start
automatically when the hotel loses power. The life safety systems — one
elevator in each tower, corridor stairs, public area emergency lighting, exit
signs, storm water pumps and a few miscellaneous items are on the emergency
plan. Because it is mandatory to evacuate and close the hotel for hurricanes,
it is only required to have life safety systems on the generator. However, it
does have resources available that can provide a portable generator to operate
the entire hotel after a hurricane in order to reopen as soon as possible,
until power is restored.
Work done in the past year by Florida Power & Light may make life a little more
tolerable after the storm, too. The power company installed stronger concrete
power poles along A1A.
“It was part of our comprehensive plan since the hurricanes of 2004,” said FPL
spokeswoman Sarah Marmion. “Replacing the old wooden poles with concrete ones
will help reduce outages and shorten the duration,” she said. “Of course, we
can’t promise there won’t be power outages.”
City fathers, local clubs and school officials have taken steps to fortify
buildings. In Gulf Stream, for example, the Town Hall got a new barrel tile
roof last year and installed impact windows and doors. And at the exclusive
Gulf Stream Golf Club, impact windows have replaced less sturdy glass.
Hurricane windows also have been added at the Gulf Stream School.
Regardless of how sturdy the windows or power poles are, coastal residents still need to follow the traditional drill as a hurricane approaches — and that means leaving
to ride out the storm out of harm’s way.
There are shelters nearby, but residents who haven’t already left to spend the hot
season elsewhere typically escape to a friend’s home or a hotel.
Watches, warnings and police
This year there have been some changes in the definition of the common terms used to describe certain storm conditions, so it is especially important that residents
understand and respond to these situations if announced, says Ocean Ridge
Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi. “Due to the increased accuracy in predicting the
direction and characteristics of an approaching storm, the advance notice for a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning have been increased,” he says. “A hurricane watch will now be issued 48 hours in advance. A hurricane warning will be issued 36 hours in advance.”
“Police will leave if there’s a mandatory evacuation,” Yannuzzi said, even though the
Ocean Ridge Police Department was built to sustain 155 mph winds. And before
the storm, when an evacuation is called for, police will go door to door to
make sure everyone knows it’s time to go.
“If they refuse to go, and we can’t force anyone to go, we give them a next-of-kin
form and tell them to fill it out and put it in the freezer,” he said. “That
way we know where to look if things go badly. If they need us during the storm,
we won’t be there.”
GAS STATIONS AND GROCERY STORES
Gas stations with generator back-up from I-95 east (Lantana-Boca)
* Moe’s Sunoco, 106 S. Dixie Highway, Lantana
* Good Way Oil, 810 S. Dixie Highway, Lantana
* Shell Gateway,yes""> 2360 N. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach
* Pinewood Texaco 645 W. Boynton Beach Blvd., Boynton Beach
* Woolbright Petroleum, 1601 S. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach
* Delray Chevron 1909 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach (just near the I-95 exit on west side)
* Nexstore Gas, 8081 Congress Ave., Boca Raton (just near the I-95 exit on west side)
* U Gas, 5101 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton
* Ron’s Camino Real Mobil, Pearson Enterprises, 1 Camino Real, Boca Raton
Grocery stores with generator back-up
* Publix, 1589 W. Lantana Road, Lantana
* Winn-Dixie, 1491 S. Dixie Highway, Lantana
* Publix, Sunshine Square, 501 SE 18th Ave., Boynton Beach
* Publix, North Delray Commons, 555 NE 5th Ave., Delray Beach
* Publix, Boca Valley Plaza, 7431 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton
* Publix, at Spanish River, 141 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton
* Whole Foods in Boca 1400 Glades Road, #110, Boca Raton
* Publix at Palmetto Park Square, 1339 W. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton
* Publix at Mercado Real, 1001 S. Federal Highway, Boca Raton
Where to find shelters
The four closest shelters are:
• Park Vista High School, 7900 Jog Road, Boynton Beach
• Boynton Beach High School, 4975 Park Ridge Blvd., Boynton Beach
• Atlantic High School, 2455 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach
• Boca Raton High School, 1501 NW 15th Court, Boca Raton.
People with physical, medical or other disabilities, as well as the elderly, need to
plan for their safety during a storm like anyone else. But their needs may call for more
detailed planning and entail friends, family, neighbors and health-care attendants.
You can go online and sign up if you need help with transportation or to reserve a
bed. If there are evacuations, some shelters will be available for folks with special needs. To reserve, call (561) 712-6400.
Fetching a safe home for Fido
Most pet owners will take their four-legged buddies along wherever they go, but, if
you need to board your pooch or kitty, you can find a list of local animal
hospitals and facilities that will do that at Animal Care & Control,
www.pbcgov.com/publicsafety/animalcare/, or phone (561) 233-1200.
Residents looking for a public shelter that welcomes pets will find one at the gymnasium at the West Boynton Beach Recreation Center, east of the high school at 6000 Northtree Blvd., Lake Worth. It’s between Hypoluxo Road and Gateway Boulevard
off the east side of Jog Road. Phone: (561) 233-1266.
Preparation is key
If you haven’t already, stock your pantry with canned goods, your freezer with ice
and make sure you have plenty of bottled water, batteries for flashlights and
radios, and gasoline for your generator (if you have one). Have your storm
shutters handy and get ready to roll if you need to evacuate.
Then pray the experts predicting a busier-than-usual season are wrong and enjoy
what’s left of the summer.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
Mary Thurwachter is a West Palm Beach freelance writer and founder/producer of the
travel e-zine INNsideFlorida.com.