major hurricane risks for El Portal residents

  1. Wind damage resulting in death of occupants. For regular houses built to code in Miami area this risk is minimal. In Hurricane Andrew over 60,000 homes were considered destroyed though most had people in them during the storm. In them there were only a handful of deaths directly caused by wind effects. Andrew wind was cat 5 ground level in south Dade (=F2 tornado) but almost all major hurricanes have actual ground wind less when they reach an urban area. Since the closing of the trailer park almost all houses in El Portal should be safe refuges from wind if they have window and door protection. No one wants to go through the experience of sheltering in the strongest part of a house in the noise and wind shaking of a major hurricane but the chance of surviving will be better there than a risky last-minute evacuation out of the area.

  2. Drowning. This is the main cause of death from hurricanes. Homes in El Portal at low elevation are at risk for this and occupants of them should have an evacuation plan ready to put into effect 48 hours or more before expected hurricane landfall if advised to evacuate. The timing of that is discussed below.
    What is most important to emphasize about risk from flood water in El Portal is that is more likely to be from flood water backing up in a major rainfall event than from storm surge only. This means a slow moving category 1 or 2 hurricane could produce life-threatening flooding in El Portal even if not much storm surge is forecast.

  3. Death or injury resulting from events during evacuation. This is minimal for evacuation to homes of friends or family in the local area providing Covid 19 risks are minimized. Evacuation by car out of the area always has had risks in south Florida due to limited road capacity resulting in traffic gridlock. In Irma we were very lucky it followed the forecast track shifted west at the last minute and did not expose cars stranded on highways to extreme winds. And with the continuing pandemic last minute panic evacuation requires advance planning for anyone at risk.

  4. Need medical devices for life support that would not work in power outage or other major health problems. Should register with Miami-Dade Emergency & Evacuation Assistance 305-513-7700.

  5. Not wanting to be in the area for the horribleness of it all including the aftermath. Understandable, but evacuate early even if it winds up being a false alarm.

Hurricane preparation and timing

At this point in the hurricane season everyone living in El Portal should have their hurricane plan ready. This means all the usual things: having window and door protection ready to install if needed, non-perishable food and other supplies ready for at least ten days without power and access to stores, cash and fuel supplies topped off, etc. Homes with low base elevation should have a way to seal door openings from water coming in.

Most all, as discussed above, everyone has to decide now whether or not they will need to evacuate for a major hurricane. In some cases it may because their house is not strong enough to withstand hurricane force winds but in most cases it will be due to flood risk for low elevation homes. If they will need to evacuate they need to have a plan now for where they will go, what it will take to get there, and have quickly packable what they will need to bring. The best option is to go to the home of a friend, family member, or neighbor living in a safe location, the nearer the better given the difficulty of traveling these days. This has to agreed upon with them now keeping in mind we all have to do what is necessary protect each other from infection. People with no other option should go to a county shelter. There will be enough available and they will all have Covid 19 prevention measures in places. There will also be shelters for people with pets.

When to evacuate: if people are prepared and know what they are going to do they should simply evacuate when there is enough time to get safely where they are going to go. In El Portal people will not need to wait for an evacuation order because they will know what to do. People at major flood risk in the Village will have to evacuate for a major hurricane or a lesser one if it is predicted to bring heavy rainfall.

An advantage of planning to evacuate locally is that one is less likely to evacuate and then find out the hurricane went elsewhere. 48 hours before the predicted arrival time of a hurricane we will have a good idea of how bad it will be here and that leaves enough time to get to a destination in Miami-Dade or Broward. For a destination elsewhere in Florida or out of state 48 hours ahead has always been too late and this year is out of the question. Travel is so difficult these days that the travel has to be planned now so it can realistically accomplished a number of days before expected hurricane landfall.