SKA members who have seen Sarasota County Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane make presentations on preparations for hurricane season know McCrane is a man with a good sense of humor. McCrane sprinkles in plenty of anecdotes to drive home his points. That was the case again recently, when he addressed SKA members on June 1, the start of the current hurricane season.
“You did pick a pretty good area to live,” McCrane told the approximately 60 people in the audience. “From what I understand [Siesta Key is] protected by Indian spirits. I choose to believe that.”
(Local lore says the Seminoles hundreds of years ago used the area as a sacred burial ground.)
McCrane also pointed out, “We don’t have volcanoes; we don’t have blizzards. We don’t have big earthquakes or tsunami threats. But we do live in the tropics,” which means the potential exists for hurricanes each summer and fall.
And while tornadoes often form in conjunction with hurricanes, he said, “we don’t get the tornadoes like the one that took Dorothy’s house to the Wizard of Oz.”
Although mobile home residents were not among the audience members, he explained that anyone living in such a dwelling always is advised to evacuate if a hurricane is approaching. However, if someone has not evacuated and a storm is about to strike, McCrane said, the advice emergency management personnel traditionally give mobile home dwellers is to go outside and lie in a ditch. “In Florida, I don’t get in ditches,” he added. “Alligators are usually in ditches.”
Because all of Siesta Key is in Evacuation Zone A, McCrane pointed out, every resident should evacuate if a hurricane is predicted to affect the area. Asked if hotels are safe, he replied that if they were built since 2000, structurally, they are safe. Nonetheless, he cautioned, anyone planning to stay in a hotel or motel should call the facility and ask whether it has hurricane-resistant windows and whether staff will be on hand during the storm to provide services.
When laughter ensued at the latter part of that answer, McCrane provided his firsthand example about why the question is necessary.
In 2004, he said, when Hurricane Frances was assaulting Florida, he was on his way to the East Coast to assist with emergency management operations. “It was raining very hard,” he continued, and he needed to stop somewhere to use the restroom. He ended up stopping at a hotel he had spotted with a parking lot filled to capacity. When he entered the building, McCrane said, “four people in the lobby stopped me.” They were locked out of their rooms and wanted help, he continued, but he told him he had no way to assist them.
When McCrane asked about the hotel staff, the people told him all the staff had left, pointing to a sign on the front desk that said the hotel management wanted to ensure all of its employees would be safe, so it had sent them home. The sign directed people needing help to call a telephone number, McCrane noted. When he asked if any of the four people who had stopped him had tried the number, he said, all of them replied that they had. “[The phone] rang right next to the sign.”