Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
Emergency preparedness is essential during hurricane season. Whether you are a coastal resident or a visitor on vacation, you should have a hurricane plan. Know your evacuation routes and if you are on the beach, get out early if the storm is headed your way. Remember, the other two or three million people on the coast want to leave too and there are only a few bridges for everyone to get across to the mainland.
Most of the Northwest Florida coast is made up of several barrier islands that you can only get on or off by bridge. The whole of Santa Rosa Island is a barrier island. This includes Pensacola Beach, Navarre Beach, and Fort Walton Beach’s Okaloosa Island. Each beach has one bridge.
Perdido Key is a barrier island with one bridge north and another bridge that goes west to another barrier island in Orange Beach, Alabama. St. George Island near Apalachicola is also a barrier island with one very, very long bridge.
Destin and all of South Walton form one island. There are two bridges north across the Choctawhatchee Bay and one bridge going from Destin to Okaloosa Island and one bridge going to Panama City Beach.
Panama City Beach is a peninsula with no bridge if you go north on Highway 79, but there is a bridge on Highway 98 going into Panama City. From Panama City north, Highway 77 has one bridge but there is no bridge on Highway 231, the only four-lane evacuation route highway. As you move east through Gulf, Franklin, and Wakulla Counties there are fewer bridges, but also fewer roads. All roads heading north from the beaches in Northwest Florida, except highway 231, are two lane roads.
Get cash. When the electricity goes out, ATMs and credit card machines don’t work.
Fill your gas tank on your car as soon as there is a hurricane warning for the area. Gas is one of those things that runs out fast when everyone wants it and you don’t want to run out of gas on the road. Once you get out of the coastal area, traffic clears and you’ll be able to travel faster. If you wait to evacuate, you’ll be sitting in miles of traffic along with everyone else who waited.
Above all KEEP YOUR COOL and follow the rules. Emergency preparedness is all about - well - being prepared.
A hurricane list is essential and there are several good ones out there. Here’s my compilation from personal experience and from NOAA.
You can add or subtract from the list according to your personal needs and preferences, but the most important thing is to have a workable and effective emergency preparedness hurricane plan, and stockpile these items at the beginning of hurricane season.
If you decide to evacuate, or if there is a mandatory evacuation, be sure and take these items with you.
See these websites for important hurricane information.