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Hurricane Idalia – interview with Sarasota County emergency center official

Written by on Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Jamie Carson: Don’t stare at the cone – think about the potential. And beware of the storm surge.


By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: August 29, 2023


Official Transcript

Host: We have with us Jamie Carson, communications director of Sarasota County. Thank you for being with us. So, we have unchanged watches and warnings from yesterday night from the National Weather Service, as of their latest report at 5:10am. For Sarasota County, there is a storm surge warning, there is a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch. What should be our top concern right now?

Carson: Obviously, that storm surge is always one of our biggest concerns. We know that some of our community members are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, and that was just about 11 months ago. I think yesterday was actually the 11-month marker. So think about your property, your home and where you are. If you’re in Level A, there’s a county evacuation notification. Think about the potential for power outages, and make sure that you’re in a safe place. We’re expecting the earliest reasonable time of arrival for those tropical storm force winds to be this evening. Yesterday, they talked about it being this afternoon, but that’s actually moved towards this evening. So community members still have some some time to prepare.

Host: Schools are closed today and tomorrow. They have been converted into shelters, and they just opened this morning in local schools. Who should go to evacuation shelters at this point? And where exactly can Sarasota County residents go?

Carson: So, if you’re a community member who lives in Level A, you should be evacuating. Also, community members that are living in manufactured homes should be evacuating. Our evacuation centers opened at 8am. As of this morning, Tuesday, all of our evacuation centers are open. I think it’s important for committee members to remember that our evacuation centers are kind of like a last resort. These are no hotels, they don’t have a lot of amenities. So everything you need you must bring with you. If you have friends or family that you can stay with, and that are in Level C, or outside of the projected path of the storm, those would be the first option. After that, if you need somewhere to go, our evacuation centers are available today.

Host: So, if you have to go to a shelter, bring your own food, bring your sleeping gear. What about special medical needs? What about pets?

Carson: For community members who are part of our Medically Dependent program, we started making those calls over the weekend, notifying them about transportation and those particular evacuation centers. We always advise to make sure you have an ample amount of medication for you. And make sure you’re thinking about your food and supplies for yourself. If you’re bringing your pet with you, make sure you also have the supplies for your pets, the carrier case and food items. Also bring some comfort items. You’re going to be there for some time, so make sure that you’re bringing things to help keep you busy. If you have kids coming with you, make sure their electronics are charged, bring some board games, bring some books and coloring books, bring some comfort items, because those are just as essential as the other items.

Host: Very good advice. Given the up to seven feet of storm surge, we should definitely be out of the way of any body of water at this point. But if we’re exposed to it, what should we do?

Carson: Our public utilities department is taking some necessary precautions. At 3pm today, we’re going to be shutting off the water for Casey Key. That’s out of an abundance of caution. Each one of our lift stations is connected to the entire system. So we’re taking precautions and shutting off the water for Casey Key to protect the entire utility system. Be aware, if you’re in one of those Level-A areas of concern that could potentially be in the path of that storm surge. Please note that there is an evacuation. It’s important that you heed that that evacuation notification, and to take it seriously. It’s not enough to look at the cone – think about the potential. It takes just a few short hours for the path of the storm to shift. We saw that with previous storms. If you remember hurricane Ian, it was supposed to go Tampa Bay and north of us, and then it shifted south. So think about what we’ve been through as a community in the past year. It’s always better to be safe.

Host: What about wind? There is a potential for tornadoes, in addition to the hurricane force winds that we may get.

Carson: Yes, there is the potential for tornadoes in our area. We are currently looking at a projection of a slightly increased potential for damaging effects by tornadoes, after the storm and after the hurricane wind bands come through.

Host: Any other tips you can leave us with?

Carson: I know that a lot of community members are still fatigued from Hurricane Ian. One of the best things we can do, and that we learned from Ian, is to connect with other people, to check on your friends and to check on your neighbor and to work together. Because the strength of the community really is what’s going to help us get through this. Just like we got through Hurricane Ian.

Host: Wonderful. Jamie Carson, communications director for Sarasota County – thank you for the interview. And you all please stay away from the water, stay away from the wind. Reach out to neighbors and friends. Stay safe!