When it comes to tropical storms, preparedness is the key

Over the weekend, with Tropical Storm Alex Key West saw 40 mile per hour winds and a whole lot of rain.

The storm is now in Bermuda, but Key West had some flooding on the roads and neighborhoods.

Both Sheriff Rick Ramsay of Monroe County and Captain Jason Ingram of the US Coast Guard Key West Sector joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about the storm.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “We had meetings throughout before, during and after, getting prepared for worst case scenarios. We’re trying to protect sheriff’s office assets – cars, signboards, boats, get all the stuff storm-ready for the worst case scenario.”

US 1 was shut down on the 18-mile stretch for just a little while because of an accident with a gasoline tanker, which brought hazardous waste to the site.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “We’re trying to have coordinated efforts between police, fire, rescue, FDOT to manage these incidents. To mitigate hazards and to get the roads open as soon as possible, but any time we do have something on the 18-mile stretch, it is time consuming because it takes a while to get an ambulance and fire truck to the scene.”

Weather does play a part even in rescues on land or on the water.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “With the weather apps we have, you can see real time so far out…we can all look and see from a distance when it gets black and ominous.”

Over the weekend during Tropical Storm Alex, the coast guard was on duty.

Captain Ingram said, “The good thing about this is that it was not that strong. We just had some winds and a bunch of rain. It kind of moved through fairly quickly, but what it allowed me to do with my staff here is we have a severe weather plan that we were able to test. I did not think that I was going to have to test it in day two of the hurricane season. Usually our storms are a little bit later in the season, but I’ve come to learn there is no usual with regard to hurricane season now.”

The weather plan is really about information flow and getting the word out to mariners that might still be on the water and give them a heads-up about the incoming storm.

Captain Ingram said, “For our own assets, our small boats, we’ll pull the trail-able boats first. We try to leave everything in the water as long as we can to be able to respond and then we will just set heavy weather moorings for our larger, 45-foot response boats.”

If the weather would have been stronger, the ships would have been put to sea so they could avoid the storm and then brought back up behind the storm to be able to respond to search and rescue situations.

The coast guard also maintains migrants coming from Cuba and Haiti.

Captain Ingram said, “It’s been steady since I got here in the first month. Looking back at the last week, we had 109 migrants interdicted. That was over seven events for us. One of those events big thanks to the Carnival Mardi Gras that came across a migrant vessel that was not sea worthy with 16 migrants and were able to recover the 16 migrants and provide medical support to them and then transfer them over to one of our cutters. This is a safety of life at sea issue.”

Once the migrants come to shore, they will be repatriated if need be.

In terms of tips for the next storm, watch the weather.

Captain Ingram said, “There’s a tendency to potentially get a little complacent with storms that don’t have a lot of impact. For the smaller boats in the area here, just make sure you’re keeping an eye and if you come into Key West on one of those little dinghies, if the weather kicks up, have a plan where you can stay on the island for the night if it’s nasty. It’s always good to have a backup plan.”

Be sure you have plenty of fuel. Keep a bag packed in case you do have to evacuate. Plan for your pets and medications. Take pictures of assets and property in case something gets damaged in the storm.

If you need to evacuate, where would you go? Have a location in mind.

Sheriff Ramsay pointed out, “We’re a little concerned these days with the economy and inflation and cost of stuff about whether people are going to evacuate. I think it’s going to have a direct impact whether people are willing to evacuate based on what things cost these days. So that’s a concern for public safety and a concern for the sheriff’s office, too, because the more people remain in the Keys during a big storm, the more we’re responsible for search and recovery and search and rescues and try and take care of people after the storm when supplies may not be available.”

Whether you stay or go, a plan with a checklist is important to make sure nothing is forgotten.