By Kerrie Cassani
From: The Weather Channel
As Isaac continues to churn in the Caribbean, Florida officials are urging residents to prepare now.
It’s been years since a significant storm impacted the Florida coastline, and officials are concerned that residents have become complacent and will not be ready.
“I think it’s a challenge of getting people to understand their risk and make sure they’ve got a plan,” said Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
With more than 19 million living across the Sunshine State, Fugate wants every Florida resident to have enough supplies to last 72 hours and to know when to evacuate.
“I think the most dangerous thing is when people keep waiting to see what the next forecast is even if they’re in an evacuation zone. They say, ‘Oh, it’s just a Category 1 storm or a minimum hurricane.’ We’ve seen significant impacts from tropical storm force winds and rain,” Fugate added.
In the Florida Keys, where there is just two ways to evacuate — U.S. 1 and the Florida Keys Marathon Airport — Mayor Craig Cates says his biggest concern is the storm’s timing. With the size and strength of Isaac midday Thursday, Cates said he would need at least 36 hours to begin evacuations of tourists and residents.
“If it (Isaac) comes straight on to Key West, we’re worried about the damage that could happen in Key West. If it goes further up the Keys, it could damage power lines and we could get effected,” Cates said. “Even if it hits further up the state, we have got to be prepared with our generators and our supplies. Being on an island, we understand that.”
Forecasters with The Weather Channel think the evacuation decisions could come quickly. It is anticipated that watches will be issued for South Florida and the Keys by Friday night.
Florida Governor Rick Scott announced Thursday that the State Emergency Operations Center would be activated later today and there would be two daily briefings to provide information to both the pubic and state officials.
“We’ll keep track of it. Were still hours away from if something is going to happen. Things will keep changing,” Scott said.
On average, 87 million people visit Florida’s beaches, theme parks and other attractions each year, Scott said, but in the coming week more will be arriving for the National Republican Convention in Tampa.
Scott said state officials are working with convention organizers, who will ultimately make the call on a delay or cancellation of the event.
“These officials have been working together on the convention for the past 18 months. The possibility of a hurricane has been part of that planning process,” Scott said. “All that’s required for those plans to be activated would be for there to be a hurricane and hopefully that will not happen.”
Read more: The Weather Channel