Vitalia lauded for proactivity on storm prep

“Fortune favors the bold,” Mayor Gregory Oravec said, quoting an old Latin saying. “I like to think fortune favors the bold who have properly prepared.”

His comments came days before the official start to hurricane season while addressing residents of the Vitalia community in Tradition.

That community is going above and beyond to ensure all its residents are ready for the next storm. It recently formed the Vitalia StormPREP Committee – a group of active residents who are putting together information and dispersing it to fellow residents. They are also crafting neighborhood plans for storm preparations, response and recovery.

“It’s all new to us,” committee member Michael Reichgut told St. Lucie Voice. He recently moved to Tradition from California, swapping earthquakes for hurricanes. “These storms can be tough,” he said, adding that he does appreciate that hurricanes seldom strike without advance warning. The same can’t be said for earthquakes.

The Vitalia community is a mix of seasonal and permanent residents, which can make planning storm preparations more complicated. And, there are elderly or infirm residents who have no method of self-transportation in the event of an evacuation notice, or to get to the store to purchase storm supplies.

Reichgut said as the committee has gotten to work, more and more challenges are sprouting up – all the more reason such a committee is of benefit to the community.

Many homeowners associations get the word out to residents via email or newsletters, said City of Port St. Lucie Emergency Management Director Christina Proulx, but Vitalia is taking preparations a step further.

Mayor Oravec lauded Vitalia for its proactiveness. “It’s exemplary,” he told St. Lucie Voice. “They have an interest. They do their homework … I love our Vitalians.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a “near-normal” hurricane season, which began June 1 and runs through November. The peak is August through October.

“Near-normal” means nine to 15 named storms of which four to eight will be hurricanes. Of those hurricanes, two to four will be “major” hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.

“There’s plenty of time to still prepare,” Proulx told the Vitalia residents.

She quizzed those who gathered, asking them what they should do when a Hurricane Watch is issued. They responded quickly with “Get ready!”

“Nobody in here said ‘Hurricane Party.’ I love that!” she responded. Floridians, particularly those on the Treasure Coast had become complacent following the 2004 hurricanes, Frances and Jeanne. Hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Irma (2017), both near-misses, gave the area a wake-up call.

With last year’s devastation from Hurricane Michael, which struck the Florida Panhandle, officials expect residents to heed the calls for preparation sooner, not later. Already, the city itself is prepared for whatever the season has in store. Before the June 1 start, there was already a sub-tropical disturbance.

“Doesn’t Mother Nature pay attention to our calendar?” Mayor Oravec asked. “I mean, the nerve! But she’s the boss, isn’t she … Mother Nature is not to be trifled with.”

Proulx encouraged the residents in attendance and the public at large to sign up for the Alert St. Lucie emergency notifications, which can be found at www.CityOfPSL.com/em to make sure that they are notified in the way they want – phone, text and/or email – when they want.

The webpage also has a link to a Hurricane and Emergency Preparedness Quick Guide residents are urged to review and implement.

“City of Port St. Lucie, I can tell you, we will pick ourselves up,” Proulx told the Vitalia community, adding that it might take time, but with everyone working together, the city will recover.

To watch the presentation given to the Vitalia community, go to https://youtu.be/4wCO1SfKQ8c. n

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