Hurricane preparedness: Knowing your hurricane, flood evacuation zones

Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 4:20 PM EDT
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Aside from mobile home or RV parks, there aren’t any flood or evacuation zones in western Palm Beach County. However, in many growing areas, like West Lake, people said there still is a major concern for traffic in the event of an evacuation.

Bustling and beautiful, South Floridians know hurricanes are not to be taken lightly--that includes those in Palm Beach County knowing their hurricane and flood evacuation zones.

“When we designed our zones, we’ve also take into consideration the road infrastructure within the county,” said Mary Blakeney of Palm Beach County Division of Emergency Management. “So, when we issue an evacuation soon for an area, we issue it far enough in advance to where individuals can safely leave that area and get to either inland or a shelter within a significant daylight hours.”

One thing that doesn’t always run smoothly in western palm beach county is traffic.

“Northlake is a nightmare,” Loxahatchee resident Nicki Dowds said. “Traffic is bad when you have kids too--you’re frustrated, but they’re frustrated in the backseat, which makes tension.”

WPTV reached out to county engineers who are aware of the problem.

“Well, Northlake is a challenge, because that’s a major east and west corridor,” Palm Beach County engineer David Ricks said, “and Avenir Development there within the past couple years and then you got Westlake.

Ricks said with the population out in the Loxahatchee’s Westlakes and Avenirs Ardens of Palm Beach County booming, there is no quick fix for an easy east to west evacuation.

“The challenge is that you have very few east and west corridors that move that traffic,” Ricks said. “So, if you wait until the last minute, you might be sitting in traffic for an extended period of time to get to this major arteries.”

However, Ricks did have some advice.

“So, the key thing for the season is to be prepared,” he said. “If there’s a major event storm, if the option is to leave early, I would leave early.”

In the event of a dangerous storm, Dowd said she’s more worried about access to essential services than evacuation.

“I’m from the Midwest and we have had no tornadoes, but this was our first hurricane season. It’s very different. I’m like where is the water? You can’t get water; you can’t get gas. It’s crazy, very insane.”

Those necessities are a big reason why she said hurricane season is something to take seriously, that includes having a road to safety.

“Especially on your main roads that everybody is taking every day,” Dowd said. “Those are already congested as it is, so if there’s an evacuation, we’re definitely bumper-to-bumper with cars, there’s no other route.”

Palm Beach County officials said residents should pay close attention to news outlets to stay up-to-date with the forecast and weather alerts.

“Pay attention to media outlets like yours to get the latest information to stay abreast on it,” Blakeney said. “One thing we definitely need people to be aware of is, don’t listen to one forecast that you feel good about and ignore the next 45 or six after that.”

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