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East County Wednesday, Jun. 2, 2021 11 months ago

Be alert: It's hurricane season in Lakewood Ranch, too

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Alert Manatee provides countywide and location-targeted notifications about evacuation notices, hazards and more.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

One size fits all is not a sound strategy when it comes to providing instructions during a hurricane, according to Manatee County Emergency Management Chief Steve Litschauer.

The rain could pour down relentlessly in parts of Lakewood Ranch, and at the same time, Myakka City might not see a single drop.

That is one reason Litschauer and the county have encouraged residents to sign up for Alert Manatee, an emergency notification system that replaced CodeRED last year. In addition to sending notifications to the entire county, Alert Manatee can send targeted messages to specific areas.

“We can literally go in and draw a map around an area, and it will send just to that area,” Litschauer said.

Alert Manatee can be used to send residents evacuation notices, weather warnings and information about hazardous traffic or road conditions. It can even be used to let people know certain shelters are open or sandbags are available.

“People in Lakewood Ranch still might want to get some sandbags if they have a pond in their backyard,” Litschauer said. “You might want some sandbags to go across your sliding glass doors.”

The notifications are sorted by levels of urgency. People can choose to receive only the most urgent notifications, or they can opt to receive every notification the county sends, or they can pick levels in between. 

“It’s a personal choice, because that alert could come out at 2 a.m.,” Litschauer said. “If people get irritated, they'll unsubscribe, and then they lose good information. We don't want to be a pest, but we want to pass out good information.”

It has been less than one year since Alert Manatee was introduced, but the 1,600 or so people who have signed up is double the number who used CodeRED, according to Litschauer. His goal is to double the number of users on an annual basis.

To sign up for Alert Manatee, visit mymanatee.org/alertmanatee. Those who register can choose whether to receive notifications via phone call, text or email. Alerts will come from 749-3500 or [email protected]. Those who want to receive localized alerts can provide up to five addresses. If you were signed up to receive CodeRED alerts, you still must register for Alert Manatee to receive notifications from the county.

As for evacuation, most East County residents — with the exception of those who live near the Braden or Manatee rivers — are unlikely to experience storm surge that would necessitate leaving home. However, evacuation is sometimes necessary because of high wind speeds. In these cases, it’s important to know when a home was built.

If it was built after March 2012, it will likely withstand winds of 150 miles per hour, according to Litschauer. Those built from 2002 to 2012 can usually withstand 130 mile-per-hour winds, while inland homes from before 2002 were built to withstand up to 90 mile-per-hour winds. Litschauer said those who need to evacuate should do so days in advance to avoid standstill traffic and plan to travel 10s of miles rather than hundreds of miles.

Lakewood Ranch Community Emergency Response Team Logistics Manager Pat Knowles said despite these guidelines, it is important to fortify the weakest parts of your home. Knowles recommended using impact-resistant hurricane windows or shutters.

Knowles said older garage doors that aren’t fortified with metal are another weak spot. One technique is to park a vehicle, especially a large one, against the garage door to prevent it from caving in. A more advanced technique is to drill into the concrete and install a steel rod at the midpoint of the garage door.

Power outages are another symptom of hurricanes to which East County is not immune. Litschauer said residents should prepare provisions that will last seven to 10 days. The county has two shelters for people with power-related needs, such as those who are dependent on oxygen machines. Those who have such needs should register at mymanatee.org/needs/ to ensure a place at one of the county’s generator-powered shelters.

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Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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