We saw the devastation after Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Homes were flooded, and lives were lost. Here in South Florida, we have a high risk of water being pushed on shore by a hurricane.

Curt Sommerhoff, Director, Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management: “People tend to focus on wind and the high miles per hour of the different categories of storm, but storm surge is what does the most destructive damage.”

And it doesn’t take much. Experts say six inches of fast moving flood water can knock over an adult. Two feet can carry away a car.

It’s why you need to know now whether you live in an evacuation zone, and if you do, be prepared to leave when an order is issued.

Curt Sommerhoff: “In a lot of cases, people are calling Uncle Joe, or somebody else to go, ‘Hey, is that serious? Are you leaving? ‘Cause if they are going to leave, then I’ll leave, too.’ We want people to listen to emergency officials.”

In Miami-Dade County, there are five color-coded evacuation zones, starting with A, the red zone areas along Biscayne Bay.

Curt Sommerhoff: “‘A’ would always be the first to go. Almost down to the county line, following up along the Bay, through areas like Palmetto Bay, coming up in towards Gables-by-the-Sea. Of course, Virginia Key, Key Biscayne and this area at the top of the Intracoastal — this is in and around Oleta Park.”

Zone B, in the orange, includes areas along the Turnpike Extension near Homestead. Plus, some big residential and business centers, including downtown.

Curt Sommerhoff: “You’ve got areas in the City of Miami and, of course, our barrier islands going from Miami Beach all the way up to Sunny Isles.”

Zone C, in yellow, includes areas along U.S. 1 to Florida City, pockets that are vulnerable to rising water from canals, as well as low-lying areas to the north.

Curt Sommerhoff: “Along the Intracoastal, 79th Street Causeway here, 96th Street.”

Moving west, the large Zone D, in green, incorporates areas of Kendall and the Redlands.

And finally, E, in blue.

Curt Sommerhoff: “A lot of this could potentially be from a storm tracking from more of a westerly direction, pushing water in, essentially from the Everglades.”

Because the evacuation zones are so widespread, officials encourage you to check the county’s website, plug in your address and see what zone you’re in.

In Broward County, things are a bit simpler. There are only two zones, A and B.

We start with A.

Miguel Ascarrunz: “It would be a Category 1 or 2 hurricane. We evacuate east of the Intracoastal, or A1A.”

That means people living along the coast, from Hallandale Beach north to Deerfield Beach.

Broward officials typically evacuate Plan B in a Category 3 hurricane or stronger.

Miguel Ascarrunz, Director, Broward Emergency Management Division: “We’re looking at evacuating east of Federal Highway, or U.S. 1, from Hallandale Beach, Fort Lauderdale, all the way up to Pompano Beach and Deerfield Beach.”

If an evacuation order includes your home, officials say it’s best to stay with family or friends just outside the evacuation area. If that’s not possible, emergency shelters will open in both Broward and Miami-Dade but should be considered a last resort.

If you have special needs, register for a shelter ahead of time. And don’t forget to pack the basics: toiletries, medication, clothes, pillows, blankets, books, even an iPad to keep the kids happy.

Regardless of where you go, the message from officials is clear: If an evacuation order is issued where you live, you need to leave.

Curt Sommerhoff: “If you decided not to evacuate, it’s probably not going to be safe for us to send somebody to get you. Now you’re going to be stuck with your decision. You’re on your own.

Jeff Lennox: “To illustrate just how serious storm surge can be, try this tool from our friends at Florida International University. Enter your address and the category storm, and see just how high the water could get at your house. While it’s interesting, don’t use it to base your decision on whether to leave. Always listen to officials.”


Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management

Broward Emergency Management Division

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