WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Polk County Emergency Management has moved to a level 2 activation ahead of Hurricane Irma. This means the EOC facility is partially staffed with experts helping community members prepare for the storm as well as prepare first responders for possible devastation.
Residents around Polk County have already taken necessary precautions by filling sandbags, buying water, batteries and food incase Florida is to lose power. Many stores have been left with bare shelves five days out from landfall.
The EOC says be ready for disruptions to stores, water, and the fact that power could be cut off for a number of days.
“We won’t get the devastating rains that Harvey got because of the nature of the storm,” said Pete McNally the director of the Polk County EOC.
McNally says that because Hurricane Irma is moving so quickly, we will not see the amount of flooding Houston has seen, but people living in low-lying, flood-prone areas should expect substantial rain and water in their parts of the county.
“A lot of those people should think about evacuating. Shelters will be available to host them,” McNally added.
Although Polk is an hour inland, the EOC also says we should be ready for significant wind damage depending on the direction of the storm.
“We saw that in Hurricane Charley in 2004 was a fast moving storm and came up right over the Ridge area in Polk County which is an Eastern area of Polk County and did a lot of damage in the southern counties and moved through Osceola county and to the coast of Daytona Beach.” He said.
While there is only so much prepping a person can do for a catastrophic storm of this nature, McNally suggest focusing on the aftermath rather than the actual storm. Making sure you have the small detailed items may become the bigger issues later on. Such as making sure you have manual can openers for the food reserves you’ve purchased, or making sure your cell phones or computers are completely charged because it’s likely there will not be anyway to power them up after the storm comes through.
The most important thing to remember according to McNally is you are not in this alone.
“Neighbor helping neighbor. You may have people around you that may not be in as good as shape as you are, reach out to them and help them with preparations around their property. Just thinking about what they need to do and what their plan is,” McNally said.