PALMETTO – Even though Anna Maria Island and most of Manatee County dodged the worst of Hurricane Ian last year, there were still plenty of lessons learned, and the community was reminded of how much of a threat a major hurricane is to the area, especially those living on the barrier islands like AMI.
Even with the storm turning in its final hours of approach to the Island, many still went close to a week without power and there was significant wind damage. To help the community be better prepared for future hurricanes, Manatee County hosted the Third Annual Hurricane Preparedness Expo on May 18 at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto.
The expo featured more than 50 booths with valuable information about how to survive a storm. There was plenty to take away from the event, but the theme echoed by most experts was to be prepared, take watches and warnings seriously, and when told to evacuate, to do so as quickly as possible.
There were rescue vehicles from multiple agencies that do search and rescue in the county, law enforcement was on hand to answer questions and dozens of vendors were on hand to answer questions about everything from stormproof doors and windows to how to take care of pets during a disaster.
“We begin to mobilize long before a major storm hits the area,” said Gary Weinstein, of the Red Cross Manatee County. “Getting food, water, medical supplies and other anticipated post-disaster necessities is vital to help those in need after the storm.”
Carolyn Nielson of the Manatee County Salvation Army echoed the Red Cross regarding being prepared and being ready to step in when needed. The Red Cross had its relief truck on hand at the event.
“We come out and not only get food and water to people in the community that need us, but we also serve first responders and those helping in the effort after a storm who work long hours to serve others,” Nielson said.
Sun Coast Blood Center was on hand as well, and stressed the need to give blood before a disaster hits.
“It takes a bit of time for blood donated to be processed, so waiting until after a disaster isn’t the best option,” Sun Coast Blood Center’s Whitlie Turner said. “Now, before hurricane season, is when we really encourage people to come out and give blood.”