Last week, Tropical Storm Andrea came and went with more of a whimper than a roar.
In the course of the storm, from Wednesday evening, June 5 to Thursday evening, June 6, the county received about eight inches of rain and peak winds were less than 35 miles per hour. Since rainfall for the month was four inches below average, the water was welcome.
No damage has been reported from the storm. About 500 Duke Energy customers in Apalachicola were without power for three hours on Thursday afternoon. Franklin County schools closed at 11 a.m. on Thursday morning but reopened Friday. The campground at Dr. Julian Bruce St. George Island State Park was evacuated for 24 hours but the park remained open through the storm.
As Andrea sat stalled in the Gulf on Wednesday night, county commissioners declared a local state of emergency.
Director of Emergency Management Pam Brownell said the declaration was purely precautionary. She said the commissioners are the ultimate authority to order evacuations and declare any state of emergency.
“I call and advise them of the situation and they make the decision,” she said. “If we don’t declare an emergency and there’s enough damage for a FEMA declaration, we won’t be eligible for aid.”
She said a local emergency declaration also makes it simpler to apply for help and supplies, like sandbags, from the state. “It allows the county to bypass regular procurement procedures,” Brownell said.
Once the storm is in progress, law enforcement is responsible for closing roads and bridges, she said.
Law enforcement also uses the new Code Red Emergency notification system to provide subscribers with information about storms or other emergencies. At 10 a.m. Thursday, Code Red broadcast a notice to 4,900 residents warning that if winds reached 45 mph, evacuations and bridge closures were possible.
Unfortunately, some recipients thought closures were imminent, which led to confusion and worried calls to the emergency management center and law enforcement.
Brownell said it is important for people to understand that an emergency declaration is not an evacuation order.
The Code Red system replaces the WENS emergency notification formerly used by the county. People who subscribed to WENS are not automatically switched to the Code Red system, and must reregister to receive notifications. The registration form is available on the sheriff’s website www.franklinsheriff.com
Sgt. John Solomon said Code Red is much faster than WENS and has a downloadable app for Droids and iPhones that allows subscribers to receive local notifications while traveling if they are in any area served by Code Red. The app is downloaded using iTunes.
Notifications received from Code Red could be identified in a number of ways on a cell phone. The sender may appear as 866-419-5000; Emergency Comm; 855-969-4636; or ECN Community. To set your own identifier for Code Red calls, access your account through the sheriff’s website and initiate a test call. You can then save the number to your contacts and name it whatever you want.
With storm season upon us, county emergency management urges everyone to have a disaster plan in place and a storm kit ready for travel, and stay informed of weather conditions.
More detailed information is available in the 2013 Hurricane Survival Guide downloadable at www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare.
Brownell urged everyone to enroll in the emergency notification system and listen carefully to emergency notifications.
Also check to make sure you have a current county reentry card for after the storm. You can request a card online or stop by the Emergency Management Center at 28 Airport Road in Apalachicola.