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Hurricane preparedness tailored to Lakewood Ranch

The Lakewood Ranch CERT held a public information session at Town Hall.

CERT members Jill and Jordan Perlin, along with Lakewood Ranch CERT President Jim Emanuelson, presented hurricane preparedness information on June 4 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
CERT members Jill and Jordan Perlin, along with Lakewood Ranch CERT President Jim Emanuelson, presented hurricane preparedness information on June 4 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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After 21 years of living in Summerfield Hollow, instead of the generic hurricane preparedness tips to stock up on water and fill the car’s gas tank, Jean Ricucci wanted information that was tailored to her neighborhood.

Ricucci and about 100 other residents signed up for the Lakewood Ranch Emergency Response Team’s public information session on June 4 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.

CERTs are made up of neighbors helping neighbors. The teams hit the streets after a disaster. There are 19 teams across Manatee County. The Lakewood Ranch CERT’s territory is Phase 1 of Lakewood Ranch, which is between University Parkway and State Road 70 and generally between Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Lorraine Road. 

Two hours after walking into Town Hall, Ricucci left with the name and location of the CERT contact in the Hollow and learned that she can text 911 if the call system goes down.

After Hurricane Ian, Lakewood Ranch CERT deployed 160 volunteers to check on their neighbors, roads and structures. In addition to 48 downed trees blocking roads and a number of collapsed pool cages, team members found two houses with gas leaks. 

CERT President Jim Emanuelson said not every county will accept text messages through 911, but he knows Manatee County does from that experience.   

“We tried calling (to report the gas leaks) and we couldn’t get through. We texted and got through,” Emanuelson said. “I’ve been through two strong storms — Irma and Ian — and both of them, we didn’t have 911 service after them. So you think you can call 911, but no.”  

Sarasota County’s 911 system also accepts text messages.

Presenter Jordan Perlin used Hurricane Ian as an example of how much rain a hurricane can generate. Grove City, north of where Ian made landfall, received 27 inches of rainfall.  

“One of the misnomers I keep hearing is, ‘Oh, we live 10 miles from the coast. I don’t need to worry about it,’” Emanuelson said. “Even this far from the coast, because we’re close to (the Braden River) — a major artery river — we’ve got a flood zone right on top of us.” 

Jill Perlin asks those who are new to Lakewood Ranch to raise their hands.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

“Know your flood zone” is a phrase regularly heard during hurricane season, but what helps Presenter Jill Perlin sleep at night is the couple’s flood insurance policy, even though the Perlins' home is not located in a flood zone.  

“You can’t eliminate the risk, but you can mitigate the risk to the point that you can,” Jill Perlin said. 

The Lakewood Ranch CERT has 240 volunteers, but smaller and newer communities like Del Webb have much smaller numbers. Secretary Sheree Parke said with 36 volunteers, Del Webb is the next largest CERT group in the area. 

A problem the Del Webb CERT sees with the newly built homes in their community is that homeowners are under the assumption that they don’t need to do a lot of preparation before a hurricane. 

“Their salesman told them these houses are rated for 150 mile an hour winds,” President Howard Malis said. “They buy a natural gas generator and think they’re safe.”

Neighbors in Phase 1 with older homes wanted to know how to protect their pre-2002 garage doors — backing a car up to the door can help, but wind braces are a better option. Another question was where to keep a propane tank — a covered lanai is the best bet. 

“I hadn’t thought that now was the time to start preparing,” Ricucci said, “But now I have to go home and get started."  



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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