As Tropical Storm Isaac continues to approach, people need to stay up to date on what the storm is expected to do. The weather will continue to deteriorate throughout the day today with bands of wind and rain coming through periodically. Tropical Storm winds will most likely begin to impact the Keys early in the morning on Sunday and throughout the day Sunday. Sunday night into Monroe morning, it is possible that category one winds will impact some if not all of the Keys. Winds will then taper off during the day on Monday.
Due to the Hurricane Warning currently in effect for the Florida keys, The Office of Emergency Management has decided to open a fourth shelter to accommodate those people in the Keys who want to have a safe place to go during the approaching storm. Shelters which will be open as of 2 p.m. today:
· Key West High School on Flagler Avenue in Key West
· Sugarloaf School on Upper Sugarloaf Key
· Stanley Switlik School in Marathon
· Coral Shores High School in Islamorada
Mobile home residents, people who live in low lying areas and those who reside on their boats are directed to seek shelter at one of the designated shelter facilities. If you plan to go to a shelter, make sure to bring all necessary supplies with you. The shelters WILL NOT have any supplies. Bring bedding, food, medicine and anything you might need to entertain yourself and your family members. Alcoholic beverages will not be allowed in the shelters. Monroe County Shelters are pet friendly, but if you bring your pet with you, the pet will be housed in a separate location from where people are housed.
Because of this change in status, Monroe County Emergency Management is now making a strong recommendation that visitors to the Florida Keys leave the county if they are able to do so safely. Tropical Storm Force winds will begin to hit the island chain on Sunday morning, so those who can leave should do so this morning (Saturday).
For those visitors who choose to remain, Emergency Management Director Irene Toner says she is directing them to stay inside during the storm. “If you choose to remain in the county during this storm, the only safe place for you to be is inside. Our goal here is to keep everyone safe,” she said.
There are many areas on county and city roadways where water does not drain well, or where saltwater encroaches on the roadway, making driving hazardous. In residential areas, people driving through standing water can cause wakes which can wash into yards and into homes. Due to all of these issues, people should not be driving anywhere during the storm.
· The Snake Creek Bridge will be locked in the down position as of 3 p.m. today.
· County offices, Sheriff’s Offices, Schools and the County Courts will be closed on Monday. Of course Sheriff’s Office dispatchers, law enforcement and corrections personnel, firefighters and paramedics will still be working to keep residents safe and secure.
· Key West International Airport will be stopping commercial air traffic Saturday evening at 7 p.m. and all day Sunday. Flights will resume when tropical storm force winds subside and it is judged safe to resume traffic. People should keep in touch with their commercial carriers for details. Marathon airport will also close as of 7 p.m. Saturday.
· Many state parks have already closed and more will be closing throughout the day as the storm approaches.
Everyone in the Florida Keys should be watching the storm very closely as conditions and timing of the storm remain in flux. Make sure to complete storm preparations on Saturday because the storm, as of today, is projected to arrive early on Sunday.
The Emergency Information hot line number is active, and will have an up to date recorded message with information about the development and approach of the storm. That number is 1-800-955-5504. You can also get up to date information about the storm in the following locations:
· Monroe County’s website: www.monroecounty-fl.gov
· The Sheriff’s Office Blog: floridakeyssheriff.blogspot.com
· Facebook: MCSO-Florida Keys
· Twitter: @mcsonews
· Sheriff’s website: www.keysso.net