Are you prepared for a hurricane?

OKEECHOBEE — On Monday, Governor Rick Scott issued Executive Order 17-235 declaring a state of emergency in all 67 counties within the State of Florida in response to Hurricane Irma — a major Category 4 storm approaching Florida.

“Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm and Florida must be prepared,” said the governor. “I have continued to be briefed by the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Hurricane Irma and current forecast models have Florida in Irma’s path — potentially impacting millions of Floridians. Today, given these forecasts and the intensity of this storm, I have declared a state of emergency for every county in Florida to make certain that state, federal and local governments are able to work together and make sure resources are dispersed to local communities as we get prepared for this storm. In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared. This state of emergency allows our emergency management officials to act swiftly in the best interest of Floridians without the burden of bureaucracy or red tape.

“In Florida, we know that the best way to protect our families in severe weather is to have a plan. I urge all Floridians to remain vigilant and stay alert to local weather and news and visit FLGetAPlan.com today as we all prepare for Hurricane Irma. We will keep monitoring and issuing updates on Hurricane Irma as it approaches Florida.”

Lake Okeechobee area residents who survived the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 know how to prepare for hurricanes: Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. With the storm’s path still uncertain, consider some common sense precautions:

• If you have hurricane shutters, make sure you have the tools and hardware needed to install them.

• If you don’t have shutters, check your plywood supply to make sure you have sufficient boards for all of the windows. The closer a hurricane comes, the harder it will be to find plywood.

• If you have a generator, test it to make sure it is working properly.

• Mow the lawn. After a storm, high grass will just make flooding worse, and harbor mosquitoes.

• Do the laundry. Whether the storm hits or not, you will need clean clothes. If it does hit, you may be without power for a while and will be glad to have that chore done.

• Stock up on non-perishable foods, appropriate for your family. Only buy foods that you will eat anyway. Stock up on bottled water. The Red Cross advises keeping at least three gallons of water on hand per person.

• Refill any prescriptions that are low. When a storm hits, you should have at least a week’s supply of prescription medications on hand in case you have to evacuate the area.

• Check your supply of batteries for items such as flashlights and radios.

• If you have a land line phone, make sure you have at least one phone that is the old-fashioned kind that plugs directly into the phone outlet and does not need additional electricity. Old-fashioned land line phones will work even when the power is out and the cell towers are down.

• If you have a chest freezer, consider freezing some gallons of water (take the lids off before freezing and put the lids back on afterwards). If you lose power, the extra ice will help keep the freezer cold.

• Keep your car’s gas tank full.

• Discuss your family’s evacuation plan in advance and share your plans with relatives, so if you have to leave your home, other family members will know where you plan to go.

• If you or a member of your family has special medical needs, registration for the special needs shelter must be done in advance. For more information, in Okeechobee County, call 863-462-5819; in Glades County, call 863-946-6020.

• Make plans in advance for pets in case you can’t stay in your home. Most shelters and hotels will not accept pets.

• If you have an aquarium, consider getting a battery powered aerator, like the kind sold at bait shops to use in live wells. If the power goes out during the storm, this could save your fish.

• Check the National Hurricane Center at www.nhc.noaa.gov for storm updates.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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