Monroe County officials declare local state of emergency, urge hurricane prep

KEY LARGO, Fla. – Monroe County officials followed Gov. Ron DeSantis’s declaration of a state of emergency on Friday with their own declaration.

Tropical Storm Ian is strengthening in the Caribbean and meteorologists warned it could hit Florida as a hurricane next week.

With traffic flowing, neighborhoods quiet, and boats in the water, it’s hard to tell that a storm is approaching.

Shannon Weiner, the director of the Monroe County Emergency Management, announced Saturday was “action day.”

“We are prepared to move forward to protect lives and property,” Weiner said adding Saturday was “action day.”

Officials announced they will discuss plans for possible evacuations and the availability of public shelters for visitors, the homeless population, and residents of mobile homes and low areas.

In Key Largo, David Magee took out his boat on Friday night to calm conditions. He said he and his family plan to secure the boat before they put an end to their vacation.

“We are going to try to do some bully netting,” Magee said. “We live in Wachula. Hurricane Charley hit us bad.”

Dive boat managers are watching the weather and making sure safety is a priority.

“We’ll take down this Bimini top on the honor--We’ll take down the sail,” said Thomas Hvratin of Florida Bay Outfitters.

There were also residents putting in furniture and securing outdoor decorations in their homes.

Managers at Garden Cove Marina, one of many in the upper keys, say they have a plan in place to secure vessels if they need to.

Tim Bow, a carpenter, was hard at work on Friday evening at a client’s oceanfront home in the upper Florida Keys. He started to place shutters on the windows and doors. He lifted and carried all of the poolside furniture inside, so it doesn’t end up in a canal.

The property owners consider it a second home, so they are counting on Bow to help them. Locals like Bow will also have to review their evacuation plans, but they don’t stress. This isn’t their first rodeo.

Bill Cradic, the Captain of Rainbow Reef Dive Center, also lives on a boat and told Local 10′s Trent Kelly that he’s keeping an eye out for the storm.

“We’re watching it. I actually live on a boat myself here, my wife and I,” said Cradic. “So we’re keeping tabs on it, we’re watching where it’s going, what it’s predicted path is.”

Cradic said he plans to move his vessel to higher ground now that Monroe County officials have declared a local state of emergency.

“It depends on how big the storm is and where you’re located actually, said Cradic. “But yeah, we’re going to move our boat. We’re going to bring it a little more north and inland.”

Jessica Levy, a member of the Coral Restoration Foundation said her group still heading out on the water today before conditions deteriorate.

“On the reef we see impacts, you can see a lot of sedimentation and sand movement, which can damage corals, it’s like sandpaper abrading a coral basically,” said Levy. “If it’s strong and intense enough, you can see corals actually being pulled off the reef and moved around.”

It comes as Monroe County officials are set to discuss possible evacuation orders today mainly for those in low-lying areas and in mobile homes.

But with the storm’s long-term path still uncertain many people in the keys are leaving nothing to chance and are taking precautions anyway.

“You go though a few of them and you start learning what you need to do to prepare for it. and it becomes more routine, not like oh my gosh, what do it do,” said Cradic.

Meteorologists forecast Tropical Depression Nine to strengthen into Hurricane Ian and hit Florida next week.
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About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.