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OSU instructor recounts experiences working on Florida's hurricane preparedness

loader lifts trees off road after hurricane
Judith Zimomra
The aftermath of Hurricane Charley in Sanibel Island, Florida, 2004.

As the former city manager of Sanibel Island, Florida, Judith Zimomra carried out the city's plans to help residents survive hurricane seasons for more than 20 years. Now an instructor of Disaster Preparedness at OSU, she told WOSU that sunshine state officials have had a lot of experience coming up with best practices for surviving these devastating weather events.

“Well a lot of the work goes into this phase but the important phase is the next phase which is called recovery, getting those utilities back on. Getting anybody who's in an unsafe structure out of that area or where they need to be,” said Zimomra who still has a home in Sanibel island.

With many storms targeting Florida, officials have enhanced building codes and required backup generators for nursing homes, grocery stores and other businesses necessary to start the process of getting life back to normal.

The mistake some make when moving to Florida from places like Ohio is thinking they are more prepared than they are, Zimomra said.

“And when new people come in, they've been through one or two or five or 10 routine storm seasons, which are more intense than the typical storm season Ohio. They think they're seasoned, but there is nothing that compares to a category five hurricane,” she said.

According to Zimomra, Florida officials have procedures in place for every phase of the storm to help with the start of the recovery process.

“Florida realizes you're never going to be able to relocate 22 million people so there's more and more emphasis if you're inland and not in the direct path to do what they call Shelter in Place,“ she said.

Williams was a reporter for WOSU. Natasha is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and has more than 20 years of television news and radio experience.