Hurricane Rita
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Monroe County Office of Emergency Management


Tuesday, Sept. 20, 7:30 p.m.

FLORIDA KEYS OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE PLANS FOR RESIDENT, VISITOR RE-ENTRY

     MARATHON, Florida Keys  - As winds from Hurricane Rita began to diminish Tuesday evening, Florida Keys officials announced the timing for return of residential evacuees and visitors to the island community.

     Residents can begin returning to the Keys Wednesday morning beginning at 7 a.m., said Monroe County Sheriff Rick Roth. Officials recommended visitors could begin driving back to the Keys Friday.

     “We have medical personnel returning to the Keys and Mariner's Hospital in Tavernier should be up and running by early Wednesday,” Roth said. “Other hospitals in the Keys should be operational soon after.”

     Roth said that assessments of the Overseas Highway found the road and bridges to be in excellent shape. He added county and City of Key West law enforcement and fire/rescue staff were on duty.

     “The highway is perfectly travelable with the exception of MM 73.5 which had flooded,” Roth said. “The flooding has receded, but we have some mud left on the highway at that location, so we'll have Florida Highway Patrol troopers there to assist with traffic control.”

     Roth said that Florida Department of Transportation workers would work to cleanse that section of the road Wednesday.

     Officials said that the recommendation for visitors to return to the Keys on Friday was made based on the premise that accommodations and tourist facilities would require at least a few days to get their employees back, undo hurricane protective actions and effect any necessary cleanup. They advised people to contact lodging facilities in advance to ensure their operational status.

     Tourism information and phone numbers for Keys chambers of commerce and the tourism council's visitor's bureau can be found on the Keys Web site at www.fla-keys.com or call 1-800-FLA-KEYS.

     Florida Keys Electric Cooperative CEO Tim Planer reported few outages for customers in Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon. Keys Energy Service Spokesperson Lynne Tejeda reported about 7,000 of 28,000 residential and business customers without power Tuesday evening in the Lower Keys and Key West. She said crews from other portions of the station would assist with electrical restoration and expected most customers would have power by Thursday evening.

     Key West Airport Director Peter Horton reported no serious damage at his facility. He planned a full assessment of the airport's operational status Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning and said an announcement regarding resumption of commercial air service to Key West would be made on Wednesday.

     All county and municipal government offices are to be closed Wednesday, but are expected to reopen Thursday. Monroe County schools will be closed Wednesday, but are expected to be back in session Thursday.


Press update, Hurricane Rita: 11:30 a.m. Tuesday

Highway Update:

The Sheriff's Office and the Florida Highway Patrol are reporting water encroaching over Highway U.S. One in a number of areas, due to an approaching high tide and storm surge from Hurricane Rita.

One particular area is completely closed to all traffic. Colonel Rick Ramsay said the highway at the 73.5 mile marker is impassable and has been barricaded to all traffic.

"We have blocked the approaches to this area due to the amount of water and debris over the road," he said. "People should not be out driving in these conditions anyway," he said. "It is simply not safe to do so. We are seeing people out driving around and they are impeding our ability to respond to those emergencies we can get to. Please...stay inside until after the storm."

Other areas which are seeing encroaching water include the following:

Other:

There are scattered power outages, including one that stretches from Duck Key to the 7 mile bridge, and a power line down on Grassy Key.


Monroe County Emergency Management Press Release, 10 a.m., Sept. 20, 2005

Keys residents urged to seek shelter; Refuges of last resort opened

Monroe County Emergency Management officials say that deteriorating weather conditions have made it unsafe to be traveling in or out of the Florida Keys.  Evacuation is no longer recommended. Officials are urging motorists to immediately seek shelter or go to one of the refuges of last resort that were opened at two a.m. Tuesday in the Upper, Middle and Lower Keys.  Officials say all storm preparations should be completed and that further evacuations are not advisable.  Residents and visitors who have remained in the Keys should stay in place or seek shelter at the following refuges of last resort:

Tropical Force winds will soon be affecting the island chain as the storm passes to the South of the Keys.  The Sheriff's Office is patrolling Keys roads, especially the 18 mile stretch, to ensure that there are no stranded motorists left on the highway. 

Again, Monroe County officials are urging residents to remain in their homes or to immediately seek shelter. Many residents of the Keys did evacuate Monday as a steady stream of northbound vehicles was reported most of the day.  In addition, many residents rode buses, supplied by Monroe County, to the Keys shelter at Florida International University.  County officials had to assign extra buses to the task as many residents went to fire stations throughout the Keys where the buses picked them up for the trip to the mainland shelter.

Currently, hospitals are closed in the Keys and law enforcement and fire and rescue personnel are responding to emergencies only, but will not respond when tropical force winds impact the upper, middle and lower Keys. 


Press Release 12:15 a.m. Sept. 20, 2005

Final evacuation convoy

Monroe County Emergency Management officials say a final convoy of buses will leave Key West at 12:30 a.m. and stop to pick up passengers at fire stations throughout the Keys.  This will provide residents a final chance to safely evacuate the Keys to the emergency shelter at Florida International University.   The county will use school buses for transportation and if residents want to evacuate, they can also flag down one of the  yellow school buses at any point along U.S. Highway One in order to get a ride.  Officials remind residents that they will be limited to one carry on bag.  The evacuation buses will stop at the following locations after the initial pickup point at Key West High School at 12:30 a.m. (Tuesday): Fire stations include:

The evacuation convoy of buses should reach the middle Keys around 2.a.m. and the upper Keys around 3 a.m. on their way to the Keys emergency shelter at Florida Atlantic University.


 


Traffic Update - Monroe County - 3:30 p.m.

Northbound traffic in the Islamorada area is slowing due to an increase in the numbers of those evacuating the Keys due to Tropical Storm Rita. Because of the slowing traffic, the Snake Creek drawbridge has been locked in the down position to allow for continuous traffic flow on the highway. Tolls have been lifted on the  Miami-Dade County  portion of the Florida Turnpike and on Card Sound Road. Sheriff's deputies and FHP troopers are standing by at locations along Highway U.S. One to deal with any problems that might arise. Those planning to evacuate should do so immediately because beginning Tuesday morning, the weather will begin to deteriorate county-wide. Rising water due to the storm may also make low lying areas impossible to negotiate in a vehicle.

Remember: If you stay in the county, once tropical storm force winds begin there will be no emergency service available - fire, rescue or law enforcement. It will not be safe for them to be out in the storm. In addition, it may be some time after the storm passes those emergency services are restored.


Press Release: Tropical Storm Rita update, September 19, 2005 - 3 p.m.

Buses Available for Keys Evacuees to FIU Shelter;
Hotel Accommodations ' Information Lines Activated

People who need assistance with evacuation to the mainland shelter at Florida International University (FIU) will have assistance from Monroe County, emergency management officials announced Monday. No shelters will be opened to the public in Monroe County itself due to the Mandatory Evacuation orders.

The county will be offering complimentary bus transportation this afternoon. Anyone requiriing a ride to FIU should be at the Key West High School, or at  one of the following County fire station s by 4 p.m. today for pick up: S tock Island Fire Station B ig Coppitt Fire Station S ugarloaf Fire Station C udjoe Fire Station B ig Pine Key Fire Station M arathon Fire Station C onch Key Fire Station L ayton Fire Station

No pets will be allowed on the buses, and passengers will only be allowed to take one bag of personal items with them due to limited space available. Evacuees should remember to bring necessary items such as medicine and other personal belongings needed in the shelter.

The Monroe County Tourist Development Council has liaised with two Florida convention and visitors bureaus who have established communications' conduits for evacuees seeking information on hotel availablity.

Fort Lauderdale CVB: 1-800-356-1662
Orlando CVB: 407-354-5555

Tolls on the southern leg of the Florida Turnpike and Card Sound Road have been suspended.

The Jewfish and Snake Creek bridges in the Upper Keys are to be locked down beginning at 7 p.m. Monday to permit uninterrupted vehicular traffic flow. This means large boats will not be able to obtain a bridge opening at that time and afterwards.


Press Release: Tropical Storm Rita, September 19, 2005 - 11:30 a.m.

MANDATORY RESIDENT EVACUATION ORDERS FOR ALL FLORIDA KEYS

Florida Governor Jeb Bush in conjunction with Monroe County Emergency Management officials have called for a mandatory evacuation for all people from the Seven Mile Bridge to Craig Key in the Upper Keys beginning at noon Monday. The noon mandatory evacuation also includes Ocean Reef in North Key Largo.

A mandatory evacuation from Craig Key to Key Largo and the Monroe/Miami-Dade County line is to commence at 3 p.m. Monday.

The entire Florida Keys island chain are under a mandatory evacuation, according to emergency management officials.

All shelters in the Keys previously announced as being open will now be closed. The shelter at Florida International University is opening Monday afternoon.

Hospitals in the Keys will be closing Monday.

Key West International Airport director Peter Horton reports his facility will cease operations at 6 p.m. Monday. He added that flights leaving Key West have available seats. The Greyhound Keys shuttle reports excellent availability of seats on service out of Key West and the remaining Keys. Contact the Keys shuttle at 1-800-410-KEYS.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Miami-Dade County and the entire Florida Keys including the Dry Tortugas and Florida Bay.  A tropical storm warning and hurricane watch are in effect for Broward County.



Press Release: Tropical Storm Rita, September 19, 2005 - 10:00 a.m.

Effective immediately, Monday Monroe County Emergency Management officials are issuing a general resident evacuation for all residents living from the Seven Mile Bridge through Key West due to Tropical Storm Rita, which is expected to mature into Hurricane Rita later Monday. “The National Hurricane Center is telling us that there is some risk that Rita might reach Category 3 status as it approaches the Keys, said Irene Toner, Monroe's emergency management director. “Our policy is to call for a general evacuation in areas that might be prone to Category 3 impacts.”

Synopsis of Protective Actions as of 10 a.m.:

Everyone in tSeptember 28, 2005updated information about Tropical Storm Rita.

Press Release: Tropical Storm Rita, September 19, 2005 at 9 a.m.

Keys Emergency Management Officials Order Resident Evacuation for Lower Keys, Key West

Effective immediately, Monday Monroe County Emergency Management officials are issuing a general resident evacuation for all residents living from the Seven Mile Bridge through Key West due to Tropical Storm Rita, which is expected to mature into Hurricane Rita later Monday.

“The National Hurricane Center is telling us that there is some risk that Rita might reach Category 3 status as it approaches the Keys, said Irene Toner, Monroe’s emergency management director. “Our policy is to call for a general evacuation in areas that might be proned to Category 3 impacts.”

With the general evacuation ordered the Monroe County shelter at Florida International University will open early Monday afternoon. Two in-county shelters previously announced to be open, Key West High School and Sugarloaf School, will not open.

A mandatory evacuation order continues for nonresidents and visitors in the Upper and Middle Keys. A mandatory evacuation order in the Upper and Middle Keys has also been issued for those residents in mobile homes, areas at risk to storm-surge flooding, other specified risk areas as well as boat live-aboards.

Monroe County schools are closed Monday and Tuesday. All county and most municipal offices are to close at noon Monday. City of Key West offices are closed all day Monday.

Key West and Florida Keys Marathon Airports should remain operational through early Monday evening, airport officials said.

ADDITIONAL HELP AND RESOURCES
Monroe County Emergency Information: 1-800-955-5504
Monroe County Situation Report: www.monroecounty-fl.gov
National Hurricane Center Web site: www.nhc.noaa.gov
Monroe County Sherriff’s Office: www.keysso.net
County Public Access Television: Channel 76 on cable
Florida Keys Tourism Visitor Help: 1-800-771-KEYS
Florida Keys Web site: www.fla-keys.com
Key West Weather: www.weather.gov/keywest

Contact: Becky Herrin, 305-809-3002
Andy Newman, 305-542-6014; 305-221-3609


Press Release: September 19, 2005 - 6 a.m.

Hurricane Warning for Keys; Mandatory Visitor Evacuation for Entire Keys; Shelters to Open

A hurricane warning is in effect for the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef through Key West and the Dry Tortguas including Florida Bay.

At 6 a.m. Monday, Monroe County Emergency Management Officials are extending the mandatory visitor and nonresident evacuation order to include the Upper and Middle Keys. The entire Florida Keys island chain -- from Ocean Reef through Key West and Fort Jefferson National Park in the Dry Tortugas -- will be under a mandatory evacuation order for all nonresidents and visitors. Visitors with immediate plans to travel to the Keys must postpone their trips until the risk has passed and protective orders are discontinued. The Keys tourism Web site at www.fla-keys.com will have a infrastructure update as soon as possible after the storm passes.

A mandatory evacuation order has also been issued for those residents in mobile homes, areas at risk to storm-surge flooding, other specified risk areas as well as boat live-aboards.

There are no general resident evacuation orders at this time for the Florida Keys.

The following hurricane shelters are scheduled to open at noon Monday for residents. They include Key West High School, 2100 Flagler Avenue; Sugarloaf School, mile marker 19 Gulfside in Sugarloaf Key; Stanley Switlik Elementary, MM 48.5 Gulfside in Marathon; and Coral Shores High School, MM 89 in Islamorada.

Efforts to secure property, including the installation of protective hurricane shutters, must be completed by early Monday evening.

Boats and other marine vessels must remain in port and be secured as soon as possible. The Snake Creek and Jewfish Creek bridges in the Upper Keys may be locked down later Monday as to not impede the progress of vehicular traffic. This means that large boats will not be able to obtain a bridge opening. Tolls on Card Sound Road are temporarily suspended.

Officials at the Key West National Weather Service office anticipate the arrival of tropical storm force winds (winds 39 to 73 mph) in the Keys by early Tuesday morning.

Monroe County schools are closed Monday and Tuesday. All county and most municipal offices are to close at noon Monday. City of Key West offices are closed all day Monday.

Key West and Florida Keys Marathon Airports should remain operational through Monday evening, airport officials said.

ADDITIONAL HELP AND RESOURCES
Monroe County Emergency Information: 1-800-955-5504
Monroe County Situation Report: www.monroecounty-fl.gov
National Hurricane Center Web site: www.nhc.noaa.gov
Monroe County Sherriff’s Office: www.keysso.net
County Public Access Television: Channel 76 on cable
Florida Keys Tourism Visitor Help: 1-800-771-KEYS
Florida Keys Web site: www.fla-keys.com
Key West Weather: www.weather.gov/keywest

Contact: Becky Herrin, 305-809-3002
Andy Newman, 305-542-6014; 305-221-3609


Press Release: Tropical Storm Rita, September 18, 2005 - 6 p.m.

Hurricane Watch Continues for Florida Keys; Visitor Evacuation in Effect for Lower Keys, Key West

A hurricane watch continues for the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef through the Dry Tortugas including Florida Bay due to Tropical Storm Rita which is expected to mature into a hurricane, according to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center.

Monroe County Emergency Management officials have issued a mandatory evacuation for visitors and non-residents from the Seven Mile Bridge through Key West, including the Dry Tortugas.Visitors and nonresidents in the Upper and Middle Keys should be prepared to evacuate Monday morning.

Visitors with immediate plans to visit any of the Keys should postpone those plans until all watches and warnings or other protective orders are discontinued.

All recreational vehicles throughout the Keys must leave. County and state parks closed Sunday.

Tolls on the Card Sound Bridge are suspended.

Traffic is flowing slowly in the Upper Keys, but there are no backups according to Captain Joe Leiter of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Key West International and Marathon Airports should be operational through Monday afternoon. Key West Airport Director Peter Horton said airlines had space available on flights and expects normal schedules through late Monday afternoon.

Although there are no general resident evacuation orders in effect at this time, residents in mobile homes and low-lying areas should begin preparing for possible evacuations. Those directives may come Monday.

Residents in the watch area should begin to take protective actions immediately. Boat owners in the Keys should secure their vessels. Boat owners needing to use the Snake Creek and Jewfish Creek drawbridges should do so today. Both bridges may be locked in the down-position Monday, meaning that boats will not be able to have a bridge opening.

Monroe County schools are to close Monday and Tuesday. All county and most municipal offices are scheduled to close at noon Monday. City of Key West offices will close all day Monday. All Monroe County courthouses are to be closed Monday through Wednesday.

The Port of Key West will be open until Monday evening, according to U.S. Coast Guard officials.

Given the current forecast track, tropical storm force winds are expected to begin to impact the Keys early Tuesday morning, weather officials said.

Unless required, this is the final planned advisory on Tropical Storm Rita for Sunday. Advisories are to resume Monday morning.

ADDITIONAL HELP AND RESOURCES
Monroe County Emergency Information: 1-800-955-5504
Monroe County Situation Report: www.monroecounty-fl.gov
National Hurricane Center Web site: www.nhc.noaa.gov
Monroe County Sherriff’s Office: www.keysso.net
County Public Access Television: Channel 76 on cable
Florida Keys Tourism Visitor Help: 1-800-771-KEYS
Florida Keys Web site: www.fla-keys.com
Key West Weather: www.weather.gov/keywest

Contact: Becky Herrin, 305-809-3002, 305-797-0155
Andy Newman, 305-542-6014; 305-221-3609


Press Release - 12:15 p.m. September 18, 2005

Hurricane Watch Issued for Florida Keys; Visitor Evacuation in Effect for Lower Keys, Key West

A hurricane watch has been issued for the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef through the Dry Tortugas including Florida Bay.

A local state of emergency is in effect for Monroe County. Monroe’s emergency operations center is to be fully activated at 7 a.m. Monday.

Monroe County Emergency Management officials have issued a mandatory evacuation — beginning noon Sunday — for visitors and non-residents from the Seven Mile Bridge through Key West, including the Dry Tortugas. The visitor and non-resident evacuation may be extended later Sunday or early Monday to include the rest of the Keys.

All recreational vehicles throughout the Keys must leave. County and state parks are closing Sunday.

Tolls on the Card Sound Bridge are being suspended.

Although there are no general resident evacuation orders in effect at this time, residents in mobile homes and low-lying areas should begin preparing for possible evacuations.

Residents in the watch area should begin to take protective actions immediately including the installation of hurricane shutters. Boat owners in the Keys should secure their vessels. Boat owners needing to use the Snake Creek and Jewfish Creek drawbridges should do so today. Both bridges may be locked in the down-position Monday, meaning that boats will not be able to have a bridge opening.

For Sunday, Jewfish and Snake Creek bridges will be opening for boats on the hour and half-hour.

Monroe County schools are to close Monday and Tuesday, according to superintendent Randy Acevedo. All county and most municipal offices are scheduled to close at noon Monday. City of Key West offices will close the entire day Monday.

Given the current forecast track, tropical storm force winds are expected to begin to impact the Keys early Tuesday morning, weather officials said.

ADDITIONAL HELP AND RESOURCES
Monroe County Emergency Information: 1-800-955-5504
Monroe County Situation Report: www.monroecounty-fl.gov
National Hurricane Center Web site: www.nhc.noaa.gov
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office: www.keysso.net
County Public Access Television: Channel 76 on cable
Florida Keys Tourism Visitor Help: 1-800-771-KEYS
Florida Keys Web site: www.fla-keys.com
Key West Weather: www.weather.gov/keywest

Contact: Becky Herrin, 305-809-3002
Andy Newman, 305-542-6014; 305-221-3609

 


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