Monroe County Emergency Management Officials met this afternoon to review plans as Tropical Storm Isaac approaches the Florida Keys. They continue to be in constant contact with the National Weather Service and the Hurricane Center as they monitor the storm very closely. A local state of emergency was declared in Monroe County today at noon.
The latest forecast shows Isaac crossing the Keys as a Tropical Storm. The National Weather Service says Keys residents can expect tropical storm force winds to begin a little earlier than was projected yesterday. People should plan for tropical storm force winds to begin in the Keys Sunday mid morning; winds should continue throughout the day and into Monday morning. Accompanying those winds will be periods of heavy rain.
Because of the change in timing for the storm, three shelters will open at select Monroe County Schools Saturday. Shelters at Key West High School, Stanley Switlik School in Marathon and Coral Shores High School in Islamorada will be open as of 2 p.m. on Saturday. People who do not feel safe in their homes may go to those shelters to ride out the storm. If you live in a mobile home, on board a boat, in a low lying area or are homeless, County officials strongly recommend you go to a shelter for your own safety.
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 the storm is projected to cross the Keys as a Tropical Storm and not a Hurricane, officials have decided NOT to order a visitor evacuation at this time. Visitors who choose to stay in the Keys during the storm should keep in mind, however, that a Tropical Storm can still produce high winds and heavy rains. During the storm, officials would ask everyone – visitors and residents - to avoid driving during the dangerous weather. Winds will also cause heavy rains and high seas, making any activities on the water extremely dangerous as well.
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.
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 most likely stop commercial traffic Saturday evening 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.
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