SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - Now that Hurricane Irma has come and gone, emergency officials are reflecting on the storm and how they can improve their response. It was the first major hurricane to threaten the Suncoast in years, leaving lessons to be learned for next time.
A lot happened leading up to and following Irma. Thousands evacuated. Thousands more ended up in shelters. Store shelves were cleared of water and nonperishable foods. Some aspects of preparations and cleanup went well. Others not so much.
There was a bit of madness as the community prepared for its first hurricane in years.
The biggest issue was the lack of power for thousands, some homes still without power right now. Senator Greg Steube is writing a letter the FPL CEO, explaining some of those frustrations that Suncoast residents have.
"Is there a way that we can better communicate with customers so that they can plan?" Steube wants to know. "If a citizen knows that they will be without power for a week, then they may want to go spend time with family that does have power. They may want to go to a hotel or do other things. It's that not knowing when the power will be restored is the biggest frustration that I have seen."
Another issue was that traffic lights weren't working at major intersections, and the City of Sarasota was putting up generators to get the lights working. But there weren't enough generators, so four way stop signs were put up.
"The community right now would support us to say, 'OK lets go buy generators,'" City of Sarasota Emergency Manager Todd Kerkering explains. "Five years from now when we haven't had a hurricane, and we are saying it's $5,000 a year to maintain all of these generators, you will get the other folks saying, 'why do you have those on the shelf?'"
Emergency officials feel the community needs to do a better job preparing for the next storm.
"The stores should never be cleaned out that way," Emergency Manager for Sarasota County Ed McCrane says.
McCrane says that Sarasota County Emergency Management was still getting calls in the 11th hour about where shelters were and how those with special needs could get assistance.
"If you are a person with special needs, you are oxygen dependent, you need electricity for a machine to help you.. you need to be on our special needs registry now," McCrane says.
The list goes on and on, and while Irma might be over, hurricane season isn't. We still have about two and half months left. So get prepared now.