By Mary Thurwachter
Who can forget Hurricane Wilma, the menacing Category 3 storm of October 2005 that sneaked up on us from the southwest and left us without power for days?
Now here we are smack dab in the middle of another hurricane season that experts predict to be busier than usual and we wonder what, if anything, has changed to help us navigate another big storm.
There’s nothing we can do to prevent a hurricane from blowing our way, but some improvements have been made to help us better cope with a storm.
For starters, several grocery stores and filling stations have installed back-up generators, so that we shouldn’t have to drive 20 miles or more, wait in line and cross our fingers that we will be able to fill up our tanks or restock our pantries after the storm.
In Highland Beach, a large generator has been added to serve municipal buildings since Wilma, said Town Clerk Beverly Brown. In case of a power outage, the generator will provide power to all three municipal buildings — Town Hall, the water plant and the library.
Work done in the past year by Florida Power & Light may make life a more tolerable after the storm. The power company installed stronger concrete power poles along A1A.
“It was part of our comprehensive plan since the hurricanes of 2004,” said FPL spokeswoman Sarah Marmion. “Replacing the old wooden poles with concrete ones will help reduce outages and shorten the duration,” she said. “Of course, we can’t promise there won’t be power outages.”
Regardless of how sturdy windows or power poles are, coastal residents still need to follow the traditional drill as a hurricane approaches: Evacuate.
There are shelters nearby, but residents who haven’t already left to spend the hot season elsewhere typically escape to a friend’s home or a hotel.
This year there have been some changes in the definition of the common terms used to describe certain storm conditions, so it is important that residents understand and respond to these situations if announced, says Ocean Ridge Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi.
“Due to the increased accuracy in predicting the direction and characteristics of an approaching storm, the advance notice for a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning have been increased,” he says. “A hurricane watch will now be issued 48 hours in advance. A hurricane warning will be issued 36 hours in advance.”
Where to find shelters
The three closest shelters for residents of coastal Boca Raton and Highland Beach are:
n Atlantic High School, 2455 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach.
n Boca Raton High School, 1501 NW 15th Court, Boca Raton.
n West Boca Raton High School, 12811 Glades Road, Boca Raton.
People with physical, medical or other disabilities, as well as the elderly, need to plan for their safety during a storm like anyone else. But their needs may call for more detailed planning and entail friends, family, neighbors and health-care attendants.
You can go online and sign up if you need help with transportation or to reserve a bed. If there are evacuations, some shelters will be available for folks with special needs. To reserve, call (561) 712-6400.
A safe place for Fido
Most pet owners will take their four-legged buddies along wherever they go, but, if you need to board your pooch or kitty, you can find a list of local animal hospitals and facilities that will do that at Animal Care & Control, www.pbcgov.com/publicsafety/animalcare/
, or phone (561) 233-1200.
Residents looking for a public shelter that welcomes pets will find one at the gymnasium at the West Boynton Beach Recreation Center, east of the high school at 6000 Northtree Blvd., Lake Worth. It’s between Hypoluxo Road and Gateway Boulevard off the east side of Jog Road. Phone: (561) 233-1266.
Preparation is key
If you haven’t already, stock your pantry with canned goods, your freezer with ice and make sure you have plenty of bottled water, batteries for flashlights and radios, and gasoline for your generator. Have your storm shutters handy and get ready to roll if you need to evacuate.
Then pray the experts predicting a busier-than-usual season are wrong and enjoy what’s left of the summer.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
Where to go for gasoline, groceries
Gas stations with generator back-up from I-95 east (Delray-Boca Raton):
Delray Chevron, 1909 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach (just near the I-95 exit on west side)
Nexstore Gas, 8081 Congress Ave., Boca Raton (near the I-95 exit on west side)
U Gas, 5101 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton
Ron’s Camino Real Mobil, Pearson Enterprises, 1 Camino Real, Boca Raton
Grocery stores with generator back-up:
Publix, The Plaza at Delray, 1538 S. Federal Highway, Delray Beach
Publix, Boca Valley Plaza, 7431 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton
Publix, at Spanish River, 141 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton
Whole Foods, 1400 Glades Road, #110, Boca Raton
Publix at Palmetto Park Square, 1339 W. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton
Publix at Mercado Real, 1001 S. Federal Highway, Boca Raton
Source: Palm Beach County Emergency Management and businesses