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Port St. Lucie Mayor Greg Oravec On Hurricane Preparation


The National Hurricane Center has made an extreme prediction. It says Hurricane Dorian is on course to hit Florida as a Category 4 storm early next week. The city of Port St. Lucie is on the Atlantic Coast, and it's in the storm's path. Kim Reardon (ph) moved there from Kentucky in May. She says she knows about tornadoes, but this would be her first hurricane.

KIM REARDON: Well, husband brought home 20 gallons of water yesterday, flashlights, batteries. My daughter's in a wheelchair, so we got her a headlamp. Canned goods - just preparing for at least a week without being able to get out of our condominium complex.

KING: Reardon talked to us via Skype from her condo, which is on the ground floor. And she says her biggest fear is water pooling inside.

REARDON: I'm a little apprehensive. But, you know, I'm one of those girls that, when a tornado is headed her way, walks out on the back porch and watches as the funnel cloud comes before I ditch downstairs to the basement. So I will probably be at the patio doors, watching the wind and the rain whip around the creek that's behind us.

KING: All right. Greg Oravec is the mayor of Port St. Lucie. Good morning, sir.

GREG ORAVEC: Good morning, ma'am.

KING: Is your city ready?

ORAVEC: We're fully mobilized to get as ready as we can be. In just about an hour, we'll formally declare a local state of emergency. Obviously, we've been preparing for essentially the last week. But as this forecast comes into greater focus, it changes the nature of our advice and recommendations and, perhaps ultimately, evacuation orders.

KING: Yeah. Let's talk about that. At what point would you order an evacuation? What would prompt you to make that decision?

ORAVEC: The track and exact landfall come into greater focus and saying - having a better idea of where landfall is going to occur. As you know, it makes a difference. And history has shown us that sheltering in place can be very, very effective. But ultimately, if you have a Category 4 and up about to make landfall where you have expectations of catastrophic damage, it changes the nature of your preparation and your response.

KING: Well, we just heard how one resident, Kim Reardon, is preparing. She says she's got a lot of water. She says she's one of those people who's probably going to be drawn to watch the storm. What advice do you have for residents of your city, especially new people like her who just haven't been through a hurricane before?

ORAVEC: Thank you for that. And Kim should know that her mayor loves her and so glad that she is in Port St. Lucie. But just listening to that segment, obviously, in Florida, we don't have very many basements because of the water table. And the water table is going to be up during this event, so there'll be no basement to run to. She probably understands that.

But we want all of our structures - hurricane shutters up, right? We want all of our structures protected to the greatest extent possible. So regardless of the exact course and as this projected track changes, we know we're going to have a tropical event. So at this point, everyone should be taking Friday and Saturday and putting up their shutters. And if they don't have shutters - proper plywood shutters and protecting their structures to the greatest extent possible with, in addition, having that seven days of food and water and being able to be self-sufficient for that seven days.

And we can't stress that even - make sure medicine is part of your checklist - right? - not just food and water but medicine, the things that keep you healthy and keep you going. We want you to have that. But we don't want you - if you can see the wind and the storm, that means that you haven't hardened your structure as much as possible. And just unfortunately, no one's that fast to be able to react to some debris flying through your window and into your home.

So that's - it's understandable. We know that people do it. But that's not what we would ask. You know, we would ask you to be in a safe place in your house, especially as it continues to deteriorate.

KING: In the last couple seconds we have left, Port St. Lucie took a hit from Hurricane Irma a couple years ago. Has the community recovered?

ORAVEC: Absolutely. And I'm very glad that you asked this question because it's a really important point. So the people of Port St. Lucie - and in my time here, we've dealt with a Category 3, Frances, a Category 2, Jeanne, and Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Wilma, Tropical Storm Fay. None of - excuse me. Hurricane Frances was a 2 at 105. Jeanne was the 3 at 120. None of these storms were a Category 4.

KING: Greg Oravec, the mayor of Port St. Lucie, Fla. Thank you so much.

ORAVEC: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.