The 2010 hurricane season is predicted to be much busier than last year.
James Cooper, Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority executive director, said he believes the forecasts this hurricane season will be more active than last year. That doesn't necessarily mean bad things for the barrier islands.
"The norm is the storms start off somewhere south of us and come across the state or turn and come up," Cooper said. "These things feed off the water temperature."
Coordinating county communications regionally is important to enhance recovery from storm damages and to protect people.
J.A. Stakenburg, Lee County Emergency Management chief of operations, said he uses hurricane predictions as a way make people more aware of what may lie ahead. He said scientists "can't tell where the active season will be."
Stakenburg said Lee County prepares for the hurricane the same way they ask the community to prepare - by running a checklist two months before the season starts.
Stakenburg said Lee County Emergency Management makes sure plans and supplies are in place. They also run through all emergency office procedures and test all communications.
The biggest change this hurricane season is the additional 12-hour lead time for hurricane watches and warnings, Sallade said.
"The hurricane watch will come at 48 hours and warnings will come 36 hours ahead of the anticipated storm arrival," Sallade said,. He said it will be a great help putting people in motion during an evacuation.
Wayne Sallade, Charlotte County emergency director, said the 16 to 18 named storms forecast this year's hurricane season won't change protocol.
"We have to treat it like every other year," he said. "It only takes one and that's the part that people have to remember."
Sallade said people can be lulled to sleep by the relatively calm 2009 season when Florida missed all nine named storms. But he said all the factors that combined to protect Florida last year are gone.
Sallade said the Hurricane Center is now giving responsibility to the Local National Weather Service to provide specific storm surge information to alert people understand to water pushing in on the coast line.
Charlotte County residents still has too few shelters provided during a hurricane, Sallade said, with just one primary shelter.
"The reality is that we are very low land here at the edge of the coast and there are no shelters that people can go to nearby in the area," Cooper said.
One school in Charlotte County provides shelter during a landfall storm and two secondary shelters for minimal hurricanes, Sallade said.
He said North Port has far more shelters than Charlotte County because its elevation is nearly double Port Charlotte's.
Cooper said the emergency management centers work together to help during natural disasters. The Boca Grande management center is at the Boca Grande Fire Department.
Lee County Emergency Management has enhanced emergency communications to provide a unified message to the public. Stakenburg said all the agencies must run information through Lee County Emergency Management first for coordination purposes.
"We coordinate our messages," he said.
Stakenburg said a good working relationship with neighboring counties is important, too. He said Lee County shares its resources, information and people during a hurricane.
"Our staff is available to help Wayne out and he would do the same if we were the impacted community," he said.
"We take a regional approach because what we do affects the surrounding counties," Stakenburg said.