“Ready, set, go”, or “drivers,
start your engines.”
For those traveling Interstate
95 in the U.S, particularly in northeast Florida, you will encounter an extra amount
of traffic. Daytona 500’s speed weeks
are this week and the big race – Daytona 500 in Daytona, Florida – is Sunday.
You’ll notice not only extra traffic but people driving like they are in the race itself, going excessively over the speed limit and darting between other vehicles with drivers trying to drive safely.
I appreciate our law enforcement doing what they can, but they can’t be everywhere. SO! Please drive with extra caution and please don’t let the less responsible ruin your travel plans, nor prevent you from “arriving alive.” https://www.flhsmv.gov/safety-center/arrivealive/.
Most people don’t realize they can call *FHP or *347 while in Florida to help with an emergency on the Interstate, or to report a hazardous condition.
Also, for those traveling in the Daytona area please be aware of an increase in pedestrians and bicyclists as thousands of people walk, bike and drive the area. Florida Department of Transportation’s “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow” emphasis overall and specific traffic safety at https://www.alerttodayflorida.com/
Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle with a 155 miles-per-hour fury and extensive storm surge. It continued into Georgia as a hurricane wreaking significant damage and continues to impact much of the southeastern U.S.A.
Travelers through the southeastern U.S. need to keep aware of travel conditions as they will change regularly even after Hurricane Michael exits.
Thousands of emergency response team members are already working life-saving missions first, along with safety and security. Thousands more from various areas are currently traveling to the impacted areas.
There are more than 3,000 Florida National Guard troops on active status already working missions in support of key agencies.
Florida’s Division of Emergency Management is overseeing and coordinating response efforts as directed by Florida’s Governor Rick Scott. The U.S. Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been planning and positioning support to assist respective state governments and are already performing duties.
It is not feasible to identify all of those responding, as practically every local, state and federal U.S. agency is working on behalf of the citizens and guests.
Some of the first ones responding to help save lives involves the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). They normally respond with a variety of specialized equipment, including shallow draft boats, ATVs, airboats and four-wheel-drive vehicles. They all work in conjunction with law enforcement and fire/rescue agencies.
If you are considering traveling through the southeastern U.S., please travel only if necessary – at least until the major response and recovery efforts allow you to safely do so.
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) highly suggests using one of their preferred tools to monitor roadway conditions. Florida 511. Also, please be aware that many of the roadways throughout the path of the storm are closed due to damage or being under water. It is best not to drive through water. “Turn around, don’t drown.”
Know before you go.
Information on roadway conditions and closures is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on Florida 511. Drivers may dial 511 from their mobile phones to receive updates. (Please stop safety while using the device or let a passenger use it.) 511 is a free resource, however, cell phone minutes and text message charges may apply. Updates are also available on the web at www.FL511.com.
Georgia’s Department of Transportation Special Response Teams will begin clearing impacted roadways once the worst of the storm passes. In the event of major flooding, crews will wait until waters recede to begin clean up. Priority routes will be cleared first to ensure the public maintains access to hospitals, trauma centers and other public facilities.
Call 511 to report flash flooding, downed trees or other obstructions on roadways or bridges impeding travel
Take shelter as the system passes through the state
Do not to drive around barricades that are in place for motorist’s safety or through standing water
Residents should never clear tree limbs, downed trees or debris from roadways, as live power lines could be tangled in debris and cause injury or death; instead, wait for Georgia DOT and Georgia Power crews
Motorists who must drive should always treat flashing red and non-operational signals as a four-way stop
Go or stay, when in harms way? To me, that’s a no-brainer. If my life and family is at risk for loss of life, do you think I would stay in a threat environment without making a change? For sure – NO.
However, many people choose to remain in the main threat area during catastrophic weather – such as Hurricane Michael churning in the Gulf of Mexico toward the Florida Panhandle. (Update: Now that Michael has made landfall the decision was made and people have to live with that decision; however, those still in the path of Michael into Georgia and northward can still make an informed decision.)
I’m watching Michael and it brings back memories of Ivan.
I recall working in Florida’s State Emergency Management Center in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan attacked the Florida Panhandle area that borders Alabama.
The Category 3 storm struck with a fury, pushing the ocean on shore and blowing structures apart.
The general public probably doesn’t understand the concept of all the work going on behind-the-scenes in so many emergency planning teams and centers when a disaster strikes. I know! I’ve been there and observed firsthand. It is AMAZING all the dedication and countless hours performed by government employees and volunteers.
Preparations for Hurricane Michael remain similar to those crises of years past as thousands prepare, respond and recover.
People can help. Local emergency management teams know the areas best and they have studied their areas in detail. If they say to evaluate or take certain precautions, please do so. Once the main threat of a hurricane is underway, emergency response teams can’t respond.
I recall a phone call I received during Hurricane Ivan.
A dad called from California stating he was talking on the phone with his daughter who was in a condominium on the beach near Pensacola, Florida. She was in her room a few stories above ground level.
The dad said his daughter mentioned the winds were picking up and she could see the ocean pouring in at the bottom floor. He pleaded for her to take cover and protect herself.
Then … all of a sudden… he heard glass breaking and whirling wind. He had no sound nor response from his daughter. He provided the address to me and asked for an emergency responder to check on her. I advised they will not be able to check until conditions subside. He seemed desperate.
I told the dad I would pass his information to our law enforcement emergency support team and they may be able to relay information to the search-and-rescue teams when they begin their mission as soon as conditions permit.
– Ron Tittle
So…if you have loved ones around the potential impact areas, please encourage them to listen to local authorities and heed their advice.
Also, continue to monitor local and national news.The Weather Channel is excellent at keeping the public updated. https://weather.com/
Everyone should also understand how so many agencies are poised and respond immediately when safe to do so. Currently more than 1,500 Florida National Guard troops are placed in active service by Florida’s governor with thousands on stand-by.
The Guard typically performs planning and staging missions beforehand to ensure their resources are properly placed and ready to move in immediately to the impacted areas.
Many military missions will include helping with search-and-rescue, security, aviation support, moving supplies and equipment, and so many other responsibilities as determined by the State Emergency Operations Center. Usually hundreds or thousands of Guard troops come from other states, along with active duty federal military, Coast Guard and other agencies.
State agencies conduct similar planning and response. Fish and Wildlife Commission teams do quite well in search-and-rescue along with various law enforcement agencies and fire/rescue teams.
The Florida Department of Transportation has emergency operations centers working in conjunction with the states’s emergency management center. They have professional engineers who have already been studying the potential impact of the storm and anticipate how they will respond quickly to assist in recovery. Once conditions permit, teams will provide a damage assessment to ensure bridges and roadways are safe for the public to use. The traveling public must be patient. It takes time to provide sufficient assessments. All of the response efforts are coordinated with the State Emergency Management Center to ensure the most effective and safe response to, within and from the impact areas, and so the proper resourcing can be provided. They also coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Similar to Hurricane Ivan, I suspect many roads will have some of their structure base washed out or damaged in some way to prevent vehicles from crossing. The repairs could take some time.
So! Do you risk it with your life or family? After all, our protection and safety is the primary responsibility of government. Yet we have to take responsibility as well.
Isn’t it amazing how beauty can soon change into a dangerous, catastrophic threat to life and property?
Who can imagine how one morning a sunrise can present such beauty and within hours change? That’s how our physical environment can change without notice and sometimes we’re not prepared for the threats of life.
Take Hurricane Florence for instance and how the sunrise begins to give way to the storms that encroach on our freedom and peace of mind.
Just like our lives we yield to that which overcomes; however, we don’t have to declare defeat. I believe that through God’s amazing grace and help we can overcome any obstacle.
I’m thinking of those in the path of Hurricane Florence, or traveling through the southeastern U.S. during the next couple of weeks.
Residents and guests near the ocean in the southeastern U.S. should be aware of the dangers and should listen closely to local emergency managers. The waves are tremendously dangerous with rip tides and currents.
Even that which is now may become no more.
The calm soon turns into anger as the ocean rises to meet the borders that contain it. Yes, winds are devastating but storm surge is for real. Can you just imagine 13 feet of ocean rise over land? And, considering some of the waves from Florence are being documented at around 30 feet, what can stand in the relentless onslaught of power.
Those traveling in the southeastern U.S. need to be aware that thousands, if not millions of people will be traveling more that normal, extending outward to most of the surrounding states and then some.
Expect traffic to be tremendous on Interstates and local roads and the airports to be overcrowded.
As winds increase, expect bridges to close for traffic
Expect restaurants to be crowded, and possibly without food – even before the storm makes its major impact. Lodging will be overbooked. You will likely have difficulty getting ANY rooms throughout the region.
Hurricanes have so much destructive power that includes multiple tornadoes as well as tremendous storm surge – and pushing water inland.
Even days, if not weeks, expect flooding and all sorts of other hazards.
There will be major power outages and fires, leaking fuel and other chemicals. Downed power lines and trees will adorn most landscapes. If one can evacuate the identified area please do so. If one can’t evacuate safely, please notify local authorities to seek assistance BEFOREHAND.
Once the major storm threat has passed, it will take quite a while to return to any kind of normal conditions. People will be without water and food for days, if not weeks. Emergency response teams will do their best to help residents and guests to recover but everyone must take responsibility to prepare and be safe.
Only use generators outside with ventilation. That’s a safety precaution for all times, not just emergencies. Remember! Keeping you and your family safe and secure is your primary responsibility.
I’m an advocate for non-profits and faith-based organizations like churches throughout the region to organize to help those traveling and may be stranded, while those within the path help those who cannot travel. This is a great opportunity to love our neighbors and re-enforce local response efforts.
Those who volunteer to help should also register with respective emergency management divisions for coordination and accountability.
Again, those traveling in the U.S. should check regularly with news and emergency management authorities to determine up-to-date information.
If you are traveling outside the projected path you may likely have Internet connection and phone service but realize those within the storm areas will have difficulty communicating for periods of time. If you don’t have to travel to the projected impact areas please look for other places to visit and enjoy your travels.
September is a month for many major hurricanes and tropical storms threaten the U.S., mostly from the Atlantic Ocean. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued a preparation statement during the weekend advising the public that it’s National Preparedness Month. The theme for this week is for everyone to make an emergency plan, encouraging each of us to write, share and practice it.
I know – much of the U.S. does not live near the coast to be threatened by hurricanes or tropical storms, but what about tornados? What about ice storms? What about events that may require us to remain indoors, or without electrical power? Have you thought through the “what if” scenario sufficiently?
All communities worldwide should be prepared for the what if.
Additionally, all of us should keep informed from local emergency planners and response agencies as all disasters are local.
Hurricane – Photo credit: ready.gov
Flood – Photo credit: ready.gov
Fire – photo credit: ready.gov
Florida’s emergency management division suggests the following concept for a basic plan.
Step 1: Put together a plan by discussing these 4 questions with your family, friends, or household to start your emergency plan.
How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
What is my shelter plan?
What is my evacuation route?
What is my family/household communication plan?
Step 2: Consider specific needs in your household.
As you prepare your plan tailor your plans and supplies to your specific daily living needs and responsibilities. Discuss your needs and responsibilities and how people in the network can assist each other with communication, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs like the operation of durable medical equipment. Create your own personal network for specific areas where you need assistance.
We all travel, don’t we? How alert are we when moving about?
Do we check local traffic laws when we travel? I have traveled to many countries and one of the main concerns I had in traveling the local roads was making sure I didn’t hit a bicyclist or pedestrian.
I’ve heard of some troublesome situations for motorists traveling from another country. Plus, imagine the ongoing guilt feeling even if we are in the right.
But it’s not only while traveling abroad. The challenge is even in our home towns.
May is bicycle safety month in Florida so I thought I would provide an emphasis on this subject.
In Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) works diligently to help ensure our vulnerable road users (like bicyclists and those walking) are protected. There are ongoing campaigns to emphasize road safety.
I’ll use some of their information to highlight this month’s emphasis on bike safety.
This is important for those who live in Florida as well as the U.S.A. It’s equally important for those visiting from other countries to understand the traffic rules to help protect ourselves, resulting in a pleasant experience.
I also think it is important to understand when we travel to and through tourist destinations there are many just like us mixing with the locals on the roads. Some know where they are going and some do not. We MUST recognize this diversity on the roads for a safer travel experience.
Many times when we travel through construction zones our GPS or electronic devices may not be dependable, whether on the major highways or local roads. This creates an additional distraction causing us to not be as vigilant for other vehicles, bicyclists or pedestrians. I suggest we review a map of the area before traveling so we will know if the GPS is accurate or not; and have an alternate route planned to help ease the confusion.
During my last trip to Europe I was once again reminded to be extra careful and alert for bicyclists. I believe when we travel to other countries we realize the importance of being watchful because of uncertainty on the roadways; however, I’m confident we are not as observant around our familiar roadways at home.
My personal opinion is there are more bicyclists in Europe than in the U.S. – for varying reasons – and local drivers are more accustomed to them, along with a better attitude toward cyclists. Maybe most U.S. drivers prefer using motorized vehicles and aren’t as tolerant for bicyclists.
So, what are we to do?
It’s spring now and there is an increase of bicyclists as the trend builds throughout the summer. Be alert cyclists not following the rules. They often don’t ride in the same direction as traffic when riding on the road. You are required to ride WITH the traffic, not against it. You may use the sidewalk in most areas provided you give an audible warning to a pedestrian when approaching him or her.
Although Florida Statutes allow riding on the sidewalk, there are some local municipalities that have more stringent requirements. For instance, in St. Augustine, particularly around the downtown area, bicyclists are not supposed to ride on sidewalks. This is likely true in many congested areas where a lot of people are walking around.
It’s up to law enforcement to determine respective violations and cite them, or not. In Jacksonville, you may be fined if you ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in an unsafe manner or if there is a bike lane in the road and you choose to not use it. However, I’m sure most law enforcement officers prefer to not write these citations.
• There were 818 pedalcyclist (bicyclist) deaths in 2015, which accounted for 2.3 percent of all traffic fatalities during the year.
• Seventy percent of pedalcyclists who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2015 died in crashes in urban areas.
• Over the 10-year period from 2006 to 2015, the average age of pedalcyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes increased from 41 to 45.
• The pedalcyclist fatality rate per million people was almost 6 times higer for males than females in 2015.
• Alcohol involvement – either for the motor vehicle operator or for the pedalcyclist – was reported in 37 percent of all fatal pedalcyclist crashes in 2015.
• More than 27 percent of the pedalcyclists who died in 2015 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of .01 g/dL or greater.
There are numerous bicycle education and training courses as well as events in Florida. I’m curious if other states and countries have a robust plan to help the most vulnerable travelers. When do other states and countries begin reinforcing safe habits to bicyclists – as a child, youth or adult?
FDOT works through various local, state and national partners to survey and conduct research as well as safety campaigns to reinforce road safety.
One of FDOT’s Alert Today Florida campaigns involves reinforcing bike safety as children ride to school. I applaud the National Football League Jacksonville Jaguars in teaming each year with FDOT’s Alert Today Florida emphasis. I was part of this emphasis in 2017. Mark Brunell, former Jaguars quarterback, and Donovin Darius, former Jaguars defensive safety, along with The ROAR cheerleaders and the Jaguars Mascot Jaxson de Ville, were key celebrities to highlight safe biking to school.
Since May is the emphasis month this year for bicycling, there was a first-ever Bicycle Safety 365 Challenge at select schools. The Bicycle Safety 365 Challenge in Jacksonville was a four-week pilot program that provides in-class bicycle safety lessons to all sixth grade students at Fletcher, Kernan and Mayport Middle Schools.
Each week, a different bicycle safety lesson was taught in class with teachers hosting safety activities for exciting learning opportunities. Schools had the opportunity to earn points during the week. The school with the most points by the end of the fourth week wins a “Bike to School Day” event with the Jacksonville Jaguars!
For their participation, each school was awarded new Alert Today Florida bicycle racks as a way of encouraging active transportation to schools, students, and families. You can click on this link to see which school won the competition and will have a Bike-to-School Day event with the Jacksonville Jaguars on May 9. https://www.alerttodayflorida.com/jaguarsafety.html
I challenge cities, states and countries to examine how we emphasize and reinforce travel safety wherever we go – at home and abroad. There must be a major emphasis worldwide to help save lives of our most vulnerable roadway users.