Taylor Ranch to become a hurricane shelter | Venice Gondolier Sun
VENICE – Taylor Ranch Elementary School is not yet ready to serve as a hurricane evacuation center, but is expected to go live in July, shortly after the end of the school year.
Hurricane season begins June 1.
When the school is certified as an evacuation center, it will be the 12th in the county and the only one between Sarasota and North Port.
Ed McCrane, the county’s emergency management chief, told a press briefing on Friday that work to strengthen the facility was underway but hampered by the school’s still in session.
The school year ends on June 11, compared to May 29 last year.
McCrane said the county was still looking for opportunities to increase the number of evacuation centers but currently had none planned in South County.
“Taylor Ranch is the solution we’re going with now,” he said.
The Sarasota Memorial Hospital had offered space on its Venice campus for a center, but it was unable to come to an agreement with the county.
The county generally partners with the Sarasota County School District, McCrane said. There are schools being planned, but trying to locate a new center in South County is complicated by the region’s generally low elevation, he said.
The Venice high school would be a good site if it wasn’t on the island, he said.
Forecasters predict a more active hurricane season, but not as busy as in 2020, when there was a record 30 named storms, 12 of which made landfall in the continental United States, according to NOAA.
The important thing to remember, said McCrane, is “you only need one.”
And with COVID-19 still a factor in everyone’s daily lives, he recommends an extra hurricane precaution this year – getting the shot.
Evacuation centers will double the space allocated to people from 20 square feet to 40 and will apply masks and hand hygiene.
But the county does not have enough room in all of its centers to handle the potential number of evacuees from a major hurricane.
If possible, McCrane said, some people can be transported to centers in other areas. But it may be necessary to reduce the amount of space allocated in county centers and “you have to assume someone in the center is positive” for COVID-19.
This is another reason why people are urged to consider other options for getting out of a storm.
Evacuation centers are a last resort – “the lifeboat, not the cruise ship,” McCrane said.
Residents should visit SCGov.net for their evacuation level, which may have changed based on recent mapping.
Homeowners can get a wind mitigation inspection to determine their home’s vulnerability to a storm and perhaps harden it up so they can shelter for longer.
Each resident should have a packaged bag for a stay of at least 72 hours elsewhere, and ideally a friend or family member they can stay with, to avoid going to an evacuation center, has t -he declares.
If they plan to shelter in place, they should stock up for a week to 10 days, he said.
Even people going to an evacuation center will have to provide their own food until school systems are able to start preparing meals.
The last thing you can do after preparing for a storm is to stay informed as you approach.
The best way to do this is to use Emergency Management’s social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, McCrane said.