Be mindful of the flooding in the Keys from Hurricane Idalia

Shannon Weiner, Director Emergency Management for Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about how to prepare for the storm.

Hurricane Idalia will affect different areas of the Keys differently.

Weiner said, “The storm is just northwest of the westernmost tip of Cuba. We are looking good that she’s going to stay enough west of us that we will be definitely having very inclement wetter weather as she passes by. It’s looking good that we are going to escape those tropical storm winds in the Lower Keys. But definitely going to see some impacts as that storm passes to the west and continues north. Some of those impacts for sure will be coastal flooding and the Lower Keys, may see up to two or two and a half feet above that high tide. In particular for the ocean side areas the winds are pushing that water in on our ocean side, and about a foot over that high tide for the coastal areas in the Middle and Upper Keys.”

A coastal flood advisory is in place for the Middle and Upper Keys and the Lower Keys are under a coastal flood warning.

Weiner said, “If you come across that coastal flooding and the roads are flooded remember, it’s not good to drive through that water. If you can turn around and go the other way, that is way to go.”

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM noted, “I want to thank you for all your leadership here because things really seem to be going like clockwork, a lot of preparation has gone into, well, preparing our county for incidents such as these.”

The high tide and the full moon will further exasperate the coastal flooding.

Weiner said, “Wednesday morning as well you want to be aware of it. So you really want to be aware and be careful definitely Go Around Don’t Drown. We all know that’s not good for our cars and it’s not worth the chance.”

There is also a small craft advisory issued for the waters around the entire Florida Keys.

Weiner said, “The waters are going to be messy. The Tortugas will stay under that tropical storm warning and anything outside the waters of the Tortugas in the Florida Keys is under small craft advisory at least for today, and possibly through tomorrow. It’s going to be squally and in those in those thundery squalls, there are maybe tropical storm force wind gusts. We all know how it is when we have poor visibility in those heavy downpours, just that they are fast moving. So if you get caught in one, you know just pull over to be safe and know that it’ll pass quickly. Maybe one to two inches of rain possibly three over the next couple of days. So definitely we could have fared much worse and as that storm moves north here in emergency management, we look to support our partners in the counties to the north and to help get them what they need and if need be, go to support them and give them a break because we know what it’s like to have a catastrophic storm impact your county.”

As of right now, it looks like operations in the Keys are still open, but the National Park Service is closing Bahia Honda and Fort Zachary to campers and visitors today.

Weiner said, “The city of Key West has ceased the Duvall loop service for today and that is because it runs along a known flooding route. They’ve made a couple of just other adjustments to their schedule. So if you do need to take the Key West transit, just check the schedule before you go.”

If you find yourself in an emergency situation, call 911.

Weiner said, “Our first responders are all staffed and standing by. They’ve made preparations as well and made sure that if they’re there, they have plenty of fuel. They’ve topped off yesterday in advance of the storm and they are standing by as always ready to assist any resident that might need it.”

Tampa could have some real challenges from Hurricane Idalia.

Weiner said, “North of Tampa and Tampa Bay and the Big Bend area, definitely that is a concern. We have both a regional call where we talk to the emergency managers within the region. So that Broward, Miami Dade and Palm Beach and Monroe. But then we also have a statewide emergency management call with the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Not too different from our coordinating call that we have here locally. But that is all your state emergency managers who will give a brief update on the protective measures going on in their county, and they would request any needs or requests for assistance during that meeting as well. So they have all made lots of preparations. There is mandatory evacuations going on in that area. The state has pre-positioned resources in Central Florida to be able to push out to those counties that need them. So lots of preparation going on statewide for this storm because it is going to be a large one.”

There were 5,500 National Guard troops deployed as a state of emergency by Governor DeSantis and President Biden also declared a state of emergency in Florida.

Stapleford said, “Our thoughts and prayers, of course, go to those to the north. We ask everybody to stay safe. Stay tuned to local media and other alerts. Stay informed, stay safe. And certainly Shannon, we appreciate your leadership.”

Weiner said, “Be vigilant today and mindful of that weather and take good care of yourself.”

Stapleford said, “Thank you so much for your leadership and diligence. We feel secure with you steering the ship here and thanks once again.”

“Thank you,” Weiner said.