Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hurricane Georges Tests Florida's Preparations for Weathering Storms Inland Hotels Are Packed with Evacuees and Water Pumps Are Working Overtime, but Some Keys Residents Chose to Ride out Storm.; Boarding Up the Sunshine State

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hurricane Georges Tests Florida's Preparations for Weathering Storms Inland Hotels Are Packed with Evacuees and Water Pumps Are Working Overtime, but Some Keys Residents Chose to Ride out Storm.; Boarding Up the Sunshine State

Article excerpt

Draw a line across the Caribbean, east to west, touching as many large islands as possible and what you end up with is a near perfect depiction of the recent path of hurricane Georges.

With scores of people killed and damage estimated in excess of $1 billion, the late-season storm has left a trail of woe and soggy wreckage across Antigua, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba.

With the storm now bearing down on Florida, the challenge for public-safety and emergency personnel on the United States mainland is to prevent further loss of life and to keep property damage to a minimum.

If they succeed, it will be the result of years of preparations.

Emergency officials along Florida's Gulf and Atlantic coasts are expected to order mandatory evacuations should hurricane Georges track close to or over the peninsula. It would mean the phased relocation of a large percentage of the state's population, including many elderly residents who may need extra time and help to bundle up valuables and find shelter.

Officials in the Florida Keys began evacuating tourists from Key West as early as Tuesday. They had to start early, since the Keys' 80,000 residents can move out on only one strip of blacktop.

A major hurricane has not hit the Keys directly since 1965. In the decades since, the chain of islands has been host to an unprecedented building boom, including 82 trailer parks and other cheap housing built without thought to an eight-foot tidal surge or wind-borne debris traveling in excess of 100 m.p.h.

But the evacuation traffic earlier this week did not include everyone. Many residents decided to ride out the storm in their houses or houseboats, and deputy sheriffs don't have authority to physically remove people from their homes.

The arrival of Georges in or near south Florida is also the first opportunity to test more stringent building codes adopted in the Miami region since hurricane Andrew caused about $25 billion in damage to homes and businesses in 1992.

In the wake of Andrew, all new homes constructed in Broward County, north of Miami, must come equipped with heavy-duty hurricane shutters. …

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