Monroe County Director of Emergency Management Marty Senterfitt and Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi participated in a panel discussion on “Rapid Hurricane Intensification.” Both are part of the five-person Emergency Management team that decides when to evacuate based on the science given to them by the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center.
The panel discussion was a part of a program hosted by the Florida Keys Lodging Association and Monroe County Tourist Development Council. The program also featured National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham, Meteorologist in Charge at Key West National Weather Service Chip Kasper, Monroe County Tourist Development Council’s Andy Newman, Dr. Doug Mader, Key West Weather Service Warning Coordinator Jon Rizzo, and Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay.
Rizzo gave a hypothetical scenario with Hurricane Irma’s track but Hurricane Harvey’s intensification. In the scenario, the storm would be a category 2 on Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. (100 miles per hour) and by 2 a.m. on Sept. 10 intensify to a category 4 (150 miles per hour). According to the National Weather Service, rapid intensification means a storm that gains more than 35 miles of sustained winds within 24 hours.
“Evacuating within 48-hours is doable, but with this kind of scenario, we have backed ourselves into a corner,” said Senterfitt. "If the conditions are favorable for intensification, we have to base our decisions on that, and the only right answer is to evacuate."
Senterfitt said to consider the panhandle and use this time now before hurricane season starts to think through your evacuation plan, with an emphasis on what you would do with 24-hour notice.
Returning to the Keys after an evacuation was also discussed. Returning is based on a hierarchy of needs ranging from basic life safety and security issues to sanitation and public health.
“Every one of us can be a part of the solution,” said Senterfitt, who discussed the County’s CERT program and business reentry program. The programs allow residents and business owners to take self-resiliency classes that would allow them back into Monroe County in the Tier II reentry phase. For more information on both programs, visit www.monroecountyem.com.
Hurricane season starts June 1. The Monroe County Emergency Management website www.monroecountyem.com is a go-to resource before and after a storm for residents, and visitors can find information at www.fla-keys.com.
“Your perception of risk is based on your previous experiences,” said Graham, who opened the conference. Just because (insert any storm name) didn’t do anything to you, doesn’t mean that the next one won’t.
Photo: Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi, left, Monroe County Emergency Management Director Marty Senterfitt, National Weather Service Warning Coordinator Jon Rizzo, and Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay sit on a panel to discuss rapid hurricane intensification during the 2019 Hurricane Conference in Marathon.