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Hurricane Matthew nears East Coast

Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for all of Florida’s 67 counties after Hurricane Matthew shifted towards the east coast.

Dwarfing the previous record of five seasons without a hurricane (1980-1984), the sunshine state has went nearly 11 consecutive years without a hurricane to make landfall. The last system to hit Florida was Wilma on Oct. 24, 2005.

Hurricane Matthew
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.

According to the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, of the 281 named hurricanes to make landfall in the United States since 1851, 114 have impacted Florida.

This averages to roughly seven hurricanes every 10 years; however, over the past 10 years there have been zero hurricanes.         

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In a state-wide poll, Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. found that today’s younger Floridians don’t worry about hurricanes. When hurricanes don’t strike over such a long period of time, some people may be lulled into a false sense of security and/or forget how horrible hurricanes can be.           

For students who have never experienced a hurricane, FGCU’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan is designed to combine the university’s expertise, knowledge and resources with those of local responders and emergency managers to provide the university and community with a unified effort to resolve any emergency.

According to the plan, the 4,500 seat sporting venue, Alico Arena, serves as a Lee County hurricane evacuation shelter. While the University will assist Lee County in opening and managing the shelter to the extent practical, shelter operations and support are the responsibility of Lee County Emergency Management.

In the event of a hurricane, the CEMP requires FGCU to implement complete closure of the campus. Complete campus closure means that all classes and all business operations are cancelled.

According to the CEMP, a land-falling major hurricane could create up to three feet of storm surge above ground level over the entire university property and a worst-case hurricane scenario could create up to 11 feet of storm surge.

In the CEMP, the university recognizes that Alico Arena does not meet the state – mandated criteria due to its vulnerability to storm surge in a major hurricane.

Generally, Alico Arena is marginally acceptable as a shelter for a land falling Category 3 hurricane in our area, and unsuitable in the Category 4 or 5 hurricane expected to make landfall in Citrus County or southward.

Due to its unique hurricane shelter challenges, Lee County may designate and operate shelters that do not meet the state criteria. Alico Arena is one of those facilities. However, due to its noncompliance, the American Red Cross — as stated in the CEMP — will not manage Alico Arena in most land falling hurricane scenarios.

The term, shelter management agency or team is used instead. Alico Arena was constructed to meet coastal hurricane shelter standards (which exceeds the wind speed of an EF-2 tornado).

In the event of a major emergency, the university is assigned to Lee County’s South Geographical Response Division, designated by Lee County Emergency Management.

The approximate center of the main campus is located at the following coordinates: 26.4642° North and 81.7737° West.

Hurricane Matthew
EN Illustration / Audrey Mobley

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