October 8, 2022

Hurricane Respect

A lot of people in Southwest Florida recently learned a hard lesson when Hurricane Ian slammed into the Punta Gorda/Sanibel/Fort Myers area with winds of 150mph and a storm surge that may have reached more than 10 feet in some areas. The cleanup is ongoing and the death toll is way past 100 and climbing.

Stories are beginning to emerge of intrepid and/or stupid boaters who survived the storm, or not, onboard. Most of the ones I have read conclude with an admission from the boater that it was a mistake to stay onboard and they had no intention of ever doing it again.

Along with these harrowing tales we are also starting to see many uninformed people blaming the National Hurricane Center (NHC) for its forecasts, which in reality were excellent as usual. Yes, the storm track moved slightly to the south and east in the last few days, and yes it didn't slam directly into Tampa Bay, but Fort Myers was always within the warning cone. Anyone checking official NHC information regularly should have been abundantly aware that even if the storm had tracked more to the north the Fort Myers area would have dangerous impacts.

Read the disclaimer on the warning cone page: Note: The cone contains the probable path of the storm center but does not show the size of the storm. Hazardous conditions can occur outside of the cone.

Even those who had not been paying attention until the last minute would have had 24 hours or more to prepare. In the case of boaters, that would have been enough time to move up the Caloosahatchie River into the Okeechobee Waterway. Once inside the Franklin lock you would have been protected from the worst of the storm surge. Even though extreme winds and flooding were experienced along the waterway, it was a much better place to be than exposed at Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral, or Punta Gorda.

Every cruising boater should be monitoring the National Hurricane Center at least daily during Hurricane Season!

But, cruising boaters shouldn't have been anywhere near Fort Myers in the first place! Read my old post: Get Out of the Box. And, despite the endless repetition of the recommendation to, "Follow the advice of local officials," every cruiser should be collecting their own information and making sound judgments for their own boat and situation.

I have written a lot about hurricanes in the past. Just type "hurricane" in the search box.

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