Reporting Peter D’Oench
MARATHON (CBSMiami) – The Florida Keys are one of the most vulnerable areas to destruction at the hands of a tropical system and with Tropical Storm Isaac taking aim at the area, emergency management workers are preparing for anything.
Because there’s only one road in and out of the Keys, the decision on when to evacuate residents out of the Keys is always crucial to planning. As of Thursday afternoon, the Monroe County Emergency Management Department said a decision to order mandatory evacuations won’t be made until Friday.
If evacuations are ordered, they would involve tourists and those with special needs. But before the evacuations are ordered, emergency management officials have to believe the storm will make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane.
Currently, there are at least 500 residents in Monroe who are registered with special needs and who would have to be evacuated.
Residents in Marathon are taking a wait and see approach to Tropical Storm Isaac.
Longtime Marathon residents Tammy and Don Braswell have already started boarding up their home.
“It’s our livelihood, our house, it’s our home,” Tammy said. “Better safe than sorry.”
“Our concern is it might get here and be going 100 miles per hour and then slow down and stop as Donna did in 1960,” Don added.
Olga and Frank Cicalese were stocking up on food just to be safe.
“After going through Andrew, we don’t want to see that again,” Frank said. “We take nothing for granted. There could be damage at the last minute.”
Other residents weren’t jumping to get prepared or evacuate just yet.
“I won’t leave unless it’s a Cat 3 (Category 3) because the only thing we’re going to get is a little bit of rain, some wind, probably the power going out,” said Vanessa Molino of Marathon.
Cindy Chapman owns the Island Fish Company and said she is concerned about Isaac, but not ready to shut down yet.
“We have over 100 employees,” Chapman said. “We don’t want to put them out of work unless it is necessary.”
While it’s unclear what the intensity of Isaac will be when it impacts the Florida Keys and South Florida, the main thing they are trying to do is make sure everyone respects the power of the storms.
“We want to make sure people are paying close attention to what’s going on,” said Monroe County Emergency Operations Center Director Irene Toner. “Because when you don’t have storms for quite a while, complacency sets in.”
The Tourist Development Council urged anyone thinking of traveling to the Keys this weekend to monitor the storm carefully. The TDC said there will be fewer tourists in the area this weekend because school is back in session.
>> Visit the CBS4 Tropics Page for an interactive Tropical Tracker, the newest computer model tracks and more.
>> Here’s how to use the CBS4 site to prepare for and monitor Isaac: