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Adam Colby
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Eckerd College is located at 27° 42.81' N 82° 40.97' W (Latitude 27.71888 Longitude -82.68831)

Tropical Weather Update

Tropical Weather Update

Tropical Weather FAQ

June 1, 2010

Eckerd College: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hurricanes

This FAQ Sheet is a service of the Emergency Management Group at Eckerd College for members of the Eckerd College community. The responses are intended to serve as helpful information; they do not reflect College policy unless so stated. We welcome your comments, suggestions, and additional questions.

Eckerd College is in Zone A. What does that mean?

Pinellas County Emergency Management uses a storm surge data model to determine flooding and evacuation levels. The model projects possible flooding from a storm surge pushed ashore by a hurricane. Pinellas County has created a map of flood zones, ranging from A (coastal areas) to E (elevated areas not prone to storm surge flooding). Situated on Boca Ciega Bay, Eckerd College is in Zone A; that means we are in a coastal area exposed to flooding from storm surge pushed ashore by a hurricane. (By the way, we also could receive flooding from waves washing over the seawall.) Flood zones were updated in 2010, so it is important that residents confirm their evacuation levels. To do so, visit Know Your Zone or call (727) 453-3150. If you need to evacuate, the Pinellas County web site will also show a listing of the nearest hurricane shelters, special needs shelters, and accommodations out of your evacuation zone.

Eckerd College likely will order an evacuation before Pinellas County officials order an evacuation. Why does Eckerd College evacuate and close the College at least two days before the projected arrival of a hurricane?

Time is important. Eckerd College wants to give students and staff time to leave the area before Pinellas County becomes congested with traffic, fuel supplies run short, waves wash on shore, and the outer bands of the storm begin to arrive. Pinellas County has four roads leading off the peninsula, three of them are bridges. Pinellas County Emergency Management generally orders evacuations 12 to 24 hours before a storm (Pinellas County projects that it would take at least 85 hours to evacuate Pinellas County if a full evacuation is ordered). When Pinellas County orders an evacuation, the interstates running through St. Petersburg and Tampa may already contain residents evacuating from regions surrounding Pinellas County. For students and staff who choose to shelter at home in Pinellas County, Eckerd College is closed the day before the arrival of the storm to give them time to make final preparations.

Eckerd College has not yet announced a decision to evacuate but I see UNICCO facilities workers doing things like turning picnic tables, removing hammocks, and clearing debris from roofs. Does that mean we will evacuate?

Not necessarily. It takes Eckerd College four solid days to prepare for an effective evacuation that protects the campus and promotes business continuity. Therefore, UNICCO needs to start early in order to be ready if an evacuation order is issued. If we do not evacuate, it is possible the College will still experience tropical storm conditions; therefore, it is still a good idea for UNICCO to remove items that can become projectiles in high winds.

I see a "cone" on the NOAA National Hurricane Center site and on TV weather reports. What exactly is the "cone of uncertainty?"

The "cone of uncertainty" shows the projected area through which the EYE OF THE STORM may track. The line, representing the projected track of the eye of the storm, may shift anywhere inside that cone; and, in fact, the eye of the storm may track along the perimeter of that cone. The NHC cautions against thinking of probabilities when viewing the cone; in other words, do NOT think that there is a lower probability for the eye of the storm to track along the perimeter of the cone than through the center of the cone. The cone reflects the average errors over 120 hours calculated at 12-hrs, 24-hrs, 36-hrs, 48-hrs, 72-hrs, 96-hrs and 120-hrs for the preceding 5 years (until March 2007 the average errors were calculated for the preceding 10 years). In other words, the cone reflects the National Hurricane Center's success in predicting the path of the eye of the storm; 70% of their predictions for the path of the eye of the storm have fallen inside the cone (only 30% have tracked outside the cone).

Eckerd College was in the cone when the College ordered an evacuation. The next day, Eckerd College was outside the cone and we continued the evacuation process. Why doesn't Eckerd College cancel evacuations?

Remember: The cone projects the potential track of the eye of the storm. The line in the middle of the cone represents the eye of the storm's anticipated path, but that line can shift anywhere within the forecast cone over time. Even if Eckerd College is outside of the cone, the eye of the storm and the bands associated with the hurricane could pass near enough Eckerd College to cause risk to life and damage to the facilities. Because the track of the storm is still uncertain even in the last 24 hours prior to landfall, we will evacuate.

If a hurricane is projected to make landfall on the Florida East Coast and traverse across south Florida and exit into the Gulf of Mexico, will Eckerd College still evacuate?

It will depend on the characteristics of the storm: the size of the eye, the intensity of the storm (winds and rain), the size of the storm (how far out strong storm bands extend), speed, what the storm is projected to do once it enters the Gulf (stall and strengthen), and the location of the hurricane to Eckerd College and Pinellas County once it is in the Gulf of Mexico (it may possibly push a storm surge on shore that will cause coastal flooding). The stronger the hurricane approaching the East Coast coupled with the likelihood that Pinellas County is close to the projected eye of the storm (cone of uncertainty) and the exit trajectory of the hurricane into the Gulf of Mexico, the greater the likelihood Eckerd College will need to evacuate. The National Hurricane Center estimates that a hurricane will diminish by one or two categories as it crosses the Florida peninsula; so, if a Cat 4 hurricane strikes the east coast of Florida and crosses the peninsula near Pinellas County, it could be a Cat 2 storm when it strikes this area depending on its speed across the state.

What if I don't know where to evacuate?

Pinellas County Emergency Management recommends that you find shelter at the homes of friends and family, hotels, or public shelters (the least comfortable option). The "Hurricane Guide for Students," which can be downloaded from the Tropical Weather Update Web site, contains the names of some hotels in non-evacuation zones and the list of Pinellas County Shelters. If you plan to go to a hotel, you will need to call ahead and make a reservation. If you are a student, discuss your options with your family; if you need additional assistance, talk with your RA or send an email to tropicalassistance@eckerd.edu

Eckerd College may be closing before the public shelters open, and I want to go to a public shelter. Where can I go in the meantime?

If you are a student, as a convenience, Residence Life can provide you a list of nearby hotels. If you cannot afford a hotel, Residence Life will assist you in finding temporary shelter in a volunteer's home until the shelters open. If you need assistance, email tropicalassistance@eckerd.edu or contact Student Affairs at 727-864-8421. Student Affairs can be reached toll-free at (800) 456-9009. Eckerd College will not let students be left homeless in a hurricane.

Will any Resident Advisors or Student Affairs professional staff be going to a shelter? How can I coordinate with them?

The Eckerd College Dean of Students lives near Bauder Elementary School, a public shelter, in Seminole. Let your RA and the Dean of Students Office know you will be planning to go to Bauder Elementary School for shelter as soon as it opens (shelter space is on a first come, first served basis in Pinellas County), and the Dean will be ready to provide additional assistance to students at that shelter if necessary. If you are planning to go to a shelter, be sure to follow the guidelines on what you should be taking with you.

I have a pet. What can I do with it during an evacuation?

Pinellas County has identified a pet friendly shelter, but pre-registration is required. Visit this link to learn more: Pinellas County Pet Shelter. There are a few hotels in the area that accept pets, but they book very quickly. The "Hurricane Guide for Students," on this Web site, includes the name of a kennel that boards pets. You may want to make advance arrangements with the kennel to board your pet. Do not delay in making your reservation. Residence Life staff can help you find hotels and kennels if you plan in advance. Volunteers who are willing to take students and pets in their homes are being sought by Residence Life. Be sure to talk with your RA if you need assistance. Do not abandon your pet in the dorm when you evacuate. This helpful Hurricane Plan for Your Pet guide from Pinellas County may be found on the County's Emergency Management Web site.

What can I do to protect my things in my dorm room?

Take with you your most valuable possessions. If you are on ground level, put the rest of your important items up high, such as in the tops of closets and on the tops of dressers and desks. Put what you can in drawers. Keep everything away from windows. Most importantly, take pictures of the room before you go, making sure to get images of your most valuable items. Know what your family's homeowner's insurance or your renter's insurance will cover. Your family's homeowner's or your renter's insurance may cover some of the costs of damaged items if they need to be replaced.

What can I do to protect my room? Should I put tape on the windows?

Before you leave, empty your refrigerator and wrap towels around the base to prevent water leakage in your room when the refrigerator defrosts. Unplug all appliances. Remove all items from your balconies. If you have your own bicycle, lock it in your room. Remove all trash from your room, and take it with you. Close your windows tightly. Lock your door when you leave. Do NOT put tape over the windows.

What about my classes? Should I expect to keep studying after I evacuate?

Yes. The following is Dean Chapin's communication sent to all students:

Dear Students,

Eckerd College and the faculty have been working over the past five years to prepare the college for hurricanes. I am writing to tell you steps you will take in the event we need to evacuate the campus for an approaching hurricane. The steps below describe what you will do to continue your education while you are away from campus.

1. All students should take all of their notes, course syllabi, assignments, books and additional course materials. Faculty expect you to continue studying for your courses during an evacuation.

2. All students should post their emergency contact information online in a form that will appear at the top of the My.Eckerd.edu Intranet page at http://my.eckerd.edu after we have announced a decision to evacuate. This online form will allow your professors to contact you after the college is closed. Remember: You also must provide this information to your RAs in the form included in the Hurricane Guide for Students, which is available from your RAs and online at http://www.eckerd.edu/tropical.

3. Faculty also will post their emergency contact information online in a form that will appear at the top of the My.Eckerd.edu Intranet page at http://my.eckerd.edu after we have announced a decision to evacuate.

4. All students should take with them contact information for their faculty (phone numbers, alternative e-mail addresses, and mailing addresses) before they leave campus. Faculty will take their students' contact information with them.

5. While away from campus, all students should continually monitor the Tropical Weather Update web site at www.eckerd.edu for information about the college and instructions for returning after the storm. DO NOT RETURN TO ECKERD COLLEGE UNTIL PRESIDENT EASTMAN HAS ISSUED INSTRUCTIONS.

6. If the College does not resume operations and classes by the end of one week after evacuation, then at that time all students should contact their professors so their course work may proceed in a timely manner.

Your professors are prepared to continue offering an education to you even if the campus is closed, and we expect you to continue your studies during an evacuation.

Thank you for all your efforts to be prepared and for continuing your studies even if you and the faculty will be doing so away from campus.

Lloyd W. Chapin
Dean of Faculty through June 30, 2010

Betty H. Stewart
Dean of Faculty, July 1, 2010-

Cc: Faculty

I don't have transportation to my evacuation site. Help!

If you cannot find a ride from a friend, there are several taxi services in the area that should be able to help you. Saint Petersburg Yellow Cab can be reached at (727) 799-2222. Bats Taxi can be reached at (727) 367-3702. If you are unable to take a taxi to your evacuation site, call the Dean of Students Office at 727-864-8421 or send an email to tropicalassistance@eckerd.edu

In addition to all my course materials, what else should I bring to my evacuation site?

The list of items is nearly the same whether you evacuate to a friend's house or to a public shelter. If you take medication, make sure you have a good supply. Bring enough clothes and personal hygiene items to get you through seven to fourteen days. Bring lots of socks and sturdy shoes because you may be walking in lots of debris after the storm passes. You also will want to bring bottled water and nutritious food that won't spoil (if you're bringing canned goods, make sure to bring a manual can opener). Be sure to bring your favorite comfort "snack" foods, too, but be prepared to share with folks around you. A flashlight and extra batteries will be useful if the power goes out. Bring your cell phone and charger; an adapter to charge your cell phone in a car would be great. Make sure to bring your homework assignments and academic books and materials. You may also find time for games and cards. If you bring CD and DVD players and portable radios and tvs, bring headphones and lots of extra batteries. If you have important documents, such as a passport, you should bring that, too. Finally, you will want some cash; ATM machines do not work when power is out. If you go to a public shelter, you will need to bring your bedding (pillow, blanket, sleeping bag, and an air mattress or cot) and a light lounge chair; you will be housed in a large open space.

Do Pinellas County shelters provide meals?

Yes, they provide three meals a day. They are provisioned for approximately three days.

What should I do with my car if I leave it on campus?

Park your car in the north lot on Derby Lane leading to McArthur Gymnasium. While this is a high point on campus, there is no guarantee against flooding. OMEGA RESIDENTS: Remove your cars from under Omega at least 24 HOURS prior to evacuation. We need to be sure the area will be clear. Rain, flooding and winds will cause cars to slide and collide.

Why does Campus Safety and Security change the residence hall door codes when we evacuate? Why do they barricade the front entrance to the College?

These practices help secure the residence halls from theft, and they deter individuals from visiting the campus when we are closed.

We were evacuated and I left something important (medication, for example) behind in my dorm room! What can I do?

Call the College at 1-800-456-9009 and listen for instructions on how to reach Campus Safety (direct line 727.864.8260). If weather conditions still permit safe travel, an officer will make arrangements with you to escort you to your room.

I live off campus. How should I prepare if I'm staying in my house or apartment in Pinellas County?

Follow the link on the Eckerd College Web site to the St. Petersburg Times Hurricane Guide. It contains information on useful food and water supplies, emergency kits, strategies for dealing with power outages, and suggestions for securing your home. Know your evacuation zone so you can be prepared to seek shelter elsewhere if a mandatory evacuation order is issued for your area.

Eckerd College requests that they be kept informed of my travel plans. Why is this? How can I provide updates?

It is very important that students stay in touch with their families and the College while they are evacuated. Before evacuating residence halls students need to turn in a form to their RAs giving Eckerd College their emergency contact information and location while they are away so that Eckerd College can respond to inquiries from parents and faculty who may be trying to reach their students. After leaving the College, students who change location(s) can update their information using the form at http://my.eckerd.edu, which will be posted before we evacuate.

I am not a student; I work for Eckerd College. Do I need to tell the College where I am, too?

Yes, Eckerd College wants to know the well-being and whereabouts of all our employees once we evacuate. Before you leave, you should tell your supervisor or collegial chair where you plan to go. You also should provide that information on the form at http://my.eckerd.edu, which will be posted before we evacuate. If your location changes after the College has evacuated, you need to update your whereabouts by visiting the College web site or by calling your supervisor or collegial chair.

I am traveling with an athletic team when the campus has been ordered evacuated. What will we do?

Your coach will remain in touch with Athletics Director Bob Fortosis and Assistant Dean of Students Lorisa Lorenzo. Arrangements may be made for you to remain in place. It will be important for you to keep your family informed of your location.

I am expecting an important delivery on campus when we are evacuated. Whom do I tell?

If you can, first inform the vendor or the vendor's delivery company. If you cannot reach them, inform John Duff, Director of ITS, by email at duffjaj@eckerd.edu.

What kind of message should I leave on my office or campus phone before I leave campus?

Hello. You have reached (name in the office of name) at Eckerd College. The College is closed in response to a hurricane. You may get the latest information about College operations by checking the Tropical Weather Update link on the College's web site at www.eckerd.edu or by calling the College's voicemail system at 1-800-456-9009. Thank you.

How can I check highway conditions before returning to Eckerd College?

You can call the Central Office of the Florida Department of Transportation at 866-374-FDOT (3368) or toll-free phone numbers for these areas:
* District 1 -- 1-800-292-3368 (Bartow)
* District 2 -- 1-800-749-2967 (Lake City)
* District 2 -- 1-800-207-8236 (Jacksonville)
* District 3 -- 1-888-638-0250 (Chipley)
* District 4 -- 1-866-336-8435 (Ft. Lauderdale)
* District 5 -- 1-800-780-7102 (Orlando)
* District 6 -- 1-800-435-2368 (Miami)
* District 7 -- 1-800-226-7220 (Tampa)
* Turnpike Enterprise -- 1-800-749-7453

I can't make it back to Eckerd College on the day we re-open. Whom do I tell?

If you are a student, send an email to travelplans@eckerd.edu to let the College know when you will return and send emails to your faculty so that you can discuss arrangements regarding your schoolwork. If you are an employee, email or call your collegial chair or supervisor.

How can I get updates about the College when we are evacuated?

Eckerd College posts and records updates in the morning, afternoon and evening when the College is closed for a storm. Visit http://www.eckerd.edu or call 1-800-456-9009. If there is an extended power outage in Tampa Bay, the College may need to communicate through its emergency web site in California: ecemergency.com.

The school's (727) 867-1166 number doesn't seem to be working when I call for an update during an evacuation. What can I do?

If the power goes down, the College's switchboard will cease to function. Call the College's toll-free number (800-456-9009) for updates. The toll-free telephone number rings at a secure off-campus site operated by Verizon and updates will be recorded there. If that number fails, too, listen for updates provided on local radio and television stations.

How can I keep my cell phone charged when the power goes out?

You may want to purchase a cell phone adapter that charges your cell phone in a car or you may purchase a portable cell phone charger that charges cell phones from batteries.

I have heard I should program an ICE number into my cell phone. What does that mean?

ICE means "in case of emergency." If you are severely injured and carrying a cell phone, your rescuer will want to check your cell phone to locate a name and number to call in case of emergency. ICE is being adopted as an international standard. Program your phone with ICE as the name and the phone number of your emergency contact. Some folks will program their cell phones like this: ICE (mother); ICE (spouse); this gives the rescuer important information about the recipient of an emergency call.

How do I know when I can come back on campus after a storm?

When the storm has passed the area, the College's Damage Assessment and Recovery Team will assess the College for safety. Once the College is determined to be safe to re-open, the President will issue an "all clear" declaration and instructions will be transmitted by e-mail, posting on the Web site, and recording on the College's voicemail system.

The wind broke my window, my room got drenched by rain, and everything I own got wet and maybe ruined. What can I do?

Remember: Eckerd College does not insure your personal items. Please verify in advance what your family's homeowner's policy or renter's insurance will cover. When you return, you should photograph and document the damage. Photographs may be helpful when you submit a claim to your insurance company.

What happens if the College sustains serious damage in a hurricane?

Eckerd College is committed to ensuring the continued education of our students. The College's hurricane plan includes strategies for continuing operations, and faculty are prepared to deliver their courses via distance for the remainder of the Fall Term if necessary. That is why it is important that all students and faculty take their course materials with them when we evacuate. You will continue your studies when the College is closed. Staff need to take their work with them so they can continue the College's administrative functions. We will all be working together to keep the College's operations underway while we repair any physical damage the campus sustains.

I'm working on a research project and it requires uninterrupted electricity. What can I do?

If you are a faculty member, immediately bring this to the attention of your collegial chair so that solutions can be developed. If you are a student, discuss this with your faculty mentor.

The College will be closed on payday. What should I do?

The College encourages all employees to participate in direct deposit. Forms are available in Human Resources and in the Business Office. In the event evacuation extends over payday, employees without direct deposit may need to wait to pick up their checks until the College reopens.

Is our new library built to withstand hurricanes?

The Armacost Library is built to FEMA standards and Pinellas County hurricane codes. It is elevated 14 feet above mean sea level, and the windows should withstand sustained winds up to 150 mph. A back-up generator will provide power to the computer server room and essential systems in the library when power is lost.

If the Armacost Library is built so well, can it be our hurricane evacuation shelter?

No. The campus is evacuated because of its coastal location and vulnerability to flooding from a storm surge associated with a hurricane. Moreover, when Pinellas County officials order an evacuation of Zone A, we must comply.

In 48 years Eckerd College has not been directly hit by a hurricane. Do I really need to take all this seriously?

Eckerd College has been very lucky in the past, but there is no guarantee that a hurricane will not come ashore in Pinellas County. Safety of the Eckerd College community is our primary concern, and Eckerd College will continue to prepare very seriously for any potential hurricane event. You should, too, whenever and wherever you find yourself in the projected path of a hurricane.

In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike which passed through the Gulf Coast states of Alabama, Louisiana and Texas these past four summers, what lessons are being taught by emergency managers in Tampa Bay?

It is important for each individual to have a plan. Pinellas County and Hillsborough County emergency managers suggest this strategy: "Evacuate for surge, mitigate for wind." This means we should all know our evacuation zones (A, B, C, D, E, and non-evacuation), and we should know where we will go if we are ordered to evacuate. This also means we should also protect our homes against the winds ("mitigate the risks") associated with hurricanes so we can remain in our homes during a storm if our homes will not be flooded. If your home is vulnerable to flooding and storm surge, you may need to evacuate; if your home is not likely to be flooded, you should consider "sheltering in place"; that means, staying in your home, which you have secured as best you can against hurricane force winds. Advice on how to secure your home is found in the St. Petersburg Times hurricane guide, on the Pinellas County Emergency Management web site, and the Floridadisaster.org web site (the links are in the right frame of this web site). The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, comprising Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas Counties, estimates it would take 105 hours (more than 4 days) to evacuate this region in the event a full evacuation is ordered. Therefore, one can understand why it is important for you to (1) have a plan, (2) know where you will go if you need to evacuate, (3) evacuate early if you plan to leave the area, and (4) prepare your home in case you decide to shelter yourself at home. REMEMBER: If you live in a mobile home, you will be ordered to evacuate if a hurricane is approaching the area.

Never mind hurricanes. What tropical weather conditions can Eckerd College safely withstand without evacuating?

In 48 years, Eckerd College has weathered tropical storms well. But, tropical storms can cause severe damage, too, because of their sustained wind speeds of 34 to 73 mph, stronger wind gusts, torrential rains, and severe storm cells with lightning and tornadic activity. When a tropical storm is approaching the area, one needs to be prepared to remain indoors for an extended period possibly without power and to take cover when tornado warnings are issued.

Can I see a copy of the College's hurricane plan? Where should I direct my comments, suggestions, or questions?

The hurricane plan is on the Eckerd College Tropical Weather Update Web site. Direct comments, suggestions and questions to Dr. Lisa A. Mets, Executive Assistant to the President and Vice President for Communications and Chair of the Emergency Management Group. Her e-mail address is metsla@eckerd.edu.

Are Eckerd College faculty involved in hurricane preparedness planning, response and recovery?

Yes. A professor is a member of the Emergency Management Group, the Emergency Management Executive Team and the Business Continuity Team. The Faculty Coordinating Committee, representing faculty, organized a Fall 2005 forum on hurricane planning and met with the Emergency Management Group in Spring 2006. Collegial chairs, who were consulted in the development of the hurricane plan, lead planning efforts in their collegia and at College Council. In 2006-07 collegial chairs and FCC participated in meteorological education sessions organized through the EMG. All faculty prepare their spaces when the College is evacuated, and faculty are prepared to teach their courses off campus if an evacuation is extended beyond a week. Decisions about the closing time for evacuation and the time the College resumes normal operations are made in consultation with the Dean of Faculty and Collegial Chairs.

Are Eckerd College students involved in hurricane preparedness planning, response and recovery?

Yes. Resident Advisors, Area Resident Coordinators, Residence Life student employees, and student volunteers are involved. The Emergency Management Group especially thanks the students for their involvement and participation. We recognize that students consider Eckerd College their home, and they want to help take care of it.

I have some suggested questions for this FAQ Sheet. May I send them to someone?

Yes, your questions are welcome. Send them to Lisa A. Mets, metsla@eckerd.edu.

© 2009 Eckerd College
Last update: June 1, 2010 Posted by at 6:51 AM

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Helpful Resources

Information about Eckerd College cancellations, closings, and openings are broadcast on TV channels WFLA 8, Bay News 9, WTSP 10, and WTVT 13; and radio stations WHPT 102.5 FM, WXTB 97.9 FM, WFLA 970 AM, and WQYK 1010 AM.

NWS: Local Forecast
NOAA: National Hurricane Center
Pinellas County Emergency Management
FL Division of Emergency Management