After hurricane winds subside, a major concern for Lake County law-enforcement and emergency-management officials is that residents remain patient.
From taking to the roads immediately after the storm to leaving shelters too early, officials say residents may be risking their lives and others as a large unknown of safety hazards will be present.
“We must encourage people not to leave the shelters until it is safe,” said Jerry Smith, Lake County Emergency Management Division Manager.
Among the hazards present on the roadways include storm debris and downed power lines. Spotting these hazards is particularly treacherous during the night. Unlike a road sign, the bark and leaves of a tree do not reflect light very well. Even when driving at safe speeds, a driver may not have enough time to react to a giant oak tree blocking the roadway.
Motorists also need to consider road crews and emergency personnel are often responding to an influx of incidents after a hurricane. Being able to quickly respond to incidents may be a life-or-death situation.
Many traffic signals are also inoperable. While these intersections should be treated as a four-way stop, the absence of traffic-control devices can produce dangerous situations.
Along with responding emergency personnel, local law-enforcement agencies will often establish checkpoints and patrols to control access to high-traffic areas that have been initially assessed as dangerous due to road blockages. Without knowledge of which roads are open, a short drive home can turn into an extremely long and treacherous trek.
Residents are asked to wait to return to their home until deployed assessment teams can evaluate and identify hazardous areas. This information will then be disseminated to the public through a variety of sources including this Web site. Residents that do not heed these warnings and attempt to re-enter damaged areas, do so at their own risk.