Are hurricane shutters canary in coal mine for aluminum tariffs?

Raymundo Orozco, (L) and Enrique Rodriguez of Guardian Storm Protection work on hurricane shutter tracks in suburban West Palm Beach, Florida, September 19, 2018. The tariff’s on steel and aluminum are forcing delays and increases in the the costs for hurricane shutters in South Florida. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

Halfway through hurricane season, a high-end Frenchman’s Creek home in Palm Beach Gardens finally got its $40,000 in aluminum hurricane shuttersWednesday — a hard-fought for prize in the new age of tariffs.

Ordered in April, the nearly four-month wait is more than quadruple the norm as aluminum prices edge up and supply dwindles with more mills looking toavoid tariffs by buying American, said Andy Kobosko, Jr., owner of Guardian Storm Protection in suburban West Palm Beach.

Kobosko, whose company filled the Frenchman’s Creek order, said he’s recently reduced delays to four to six weeks by buying in bulk with his Fort Lauderdale-based distributor. A normal wait time for shutters before the tariffs was two to three weeks, Kobosko said.

“Things are starting to catch up, but it’s been a stressful three months,” he said.

RELATED: Safest places to live in Florida to avoid a hurricane

Since President Donald Trump’s…READ the rest of the story at MyPalmBeachPost.com and find out why Florida may be insulated to some extent from tariff impacts. 

A year after Hurricane Irma, a thread of Keys’ society unraveling

Property for sale Big Pine Key, Florida, August, 29, 2018. Hurricane Irma destroyed many homes when it blasted the Florida Keys, September 10, 2017. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

A year after Hurricane Irma battered the Florida Keys, the iconic island chain is open for business, beckoning tourists in search of candy-coated sunsets, tropical solace — their lost shaker of salt.

The sandal factories, shell worlds, and key lime stands advertise their colorful kitsch along the Overseas Highway that carries pilgrims to the promised land of sweet libations and Hemingway lore.

But scratch the surface of that coconut-scented veneer and a different side  of Hurricane Irma recovery is revealed.

Artist William Sasser holds one of his painting outside a FEMA trailer he is staying in Big Pine Key, Florida, August 28, 2018. Hurricane Irma toppled a tree onto his trailer, September 10, 2017. Sasser was told in late August he wasn’t doing enough to “actively pursue” a permanent residence. He was given 15 days to move. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

A thread of Keys society — musicians, artists, old-school Conchs and workaday Joes — is unraveling.

People whose grip on Eden was tenuous before Irma blew their homes apart, are feeling it slip away entirely in the face of strict rebuilding codes that require raised structures fortified to withstand Mother Nature’s worst.

It’s a unique dilemma in an archipelago where there’s no easy commute to cheaper suburbs. In other parts of the state, a trailer home lost to Irma could be replaced with another trailer home, said Phillip Decker, regional team leader for the United Methodist Conference working on recovery efforts in Monroe County.

On Avenue G in Big Pine Key, fourth-generation Conch Mary Grimes ponders how she’ll replace her ruined 60s-era trailer with a stilt palace of concrete.

The 74-year-old has six months …. READ the full story and see more incredible Hurricane Irma photos on MyPalmBeachPost.com.

Adventure Environmental crews clear debris from a canal in Marathon, Florida, August, 29, 2018. A federal grant provided $49.2 million – $45.9 million for marine cleanup and $3.3 million for monitoring after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys, September 10, 2017. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

Bathtub Beach closed to swimming after algae sigthed

Bathtub Beach in Martin County is closed to swimming because blue-green algae was seen in the water.

It’s the first time since the algae outbreak in 2016 that the beach has closed because of the presence of the cyanobacteria, said Brad Beckett, chief of Martin County Ocean Rescue.

Beckett said guards noticed the algae at 4 p.m. Tuesday at high tide, and that it was still visible this morning.

“We are flying double red flags and advising people not to go in the water,” Beckett said.

JUST IN: New hurricane center forecast for Invest 99L

The little Invest 99L that was identified Thursday by the National Hurricane Center is struggling in the tropical Atlantic with just a 10 percent chance of development over the next 5 days.

That’s a decrease from the original forecast that gave it a 20 percent chance, and forecasters are now saying significant development is not expected.

BOOKMARK: The Palm Beach Post’s Storm Tracking Map

Hurricane center specialist Erik Blake made note of the current state of the tropical Atlantic compared to this time in 2017, saying in a Tweet; “What a difference a year makes! One year ago today, Harvey was forming and NHC was monitoring 3 potential Atlantic systems.”

Ernesto, which formed Wednesday as a subtropical storm, became fully tropical on Thursday.

It’s in the far off Central Atlantic heading toward Ireland as a weak tropical storm.

Ernesto, as with Debby, formed from non-tropical low pressure systems that came off the northeast coast or formed over the waters nearby. Four of the five named storms this year were subtropical at some point in their lifespans.

RELATED: Four hurricane graphics you should know as peak season nears

The record for subtropical storms in a single season is five, and that was back in 1969.

“Normally we don’t get this many storms like this,” said Dan Kottlowski, senior hurricane forecaster with AccuWeather. “But if you look at the water temperatures where Ernesto formed they are  1 to 2 degrees Celsius (1.8 to 3.6 degrees F) above normal so we get a system with non-tropical features over the warmer water and they are just blossoming.”

Meanwhile, waters in the main development region of the tropical Atlantic are warmer than they were in June, but still slightly cooler than  normal.

With strong trade winds forced by a robust Bermuda High, upwelling has left sea surface temperatures below where they were during the hyperactive year of 2017.

“The good news is the water temperatures are probably not going to get anywhere near like last year and that’s why the odds of us having monster storms like 2017 are pretty low,” Kottlowski said.

Last year at this time, Hurricane Harvey was about to become a tropical storm. The tropical wave that would become Irma moved off the coast of Africa Aug. 27, 2017.

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Good news on Invest 99L, but shhhhh…don’t poke the tropical Atlantic, which is about to enter peak hurricane season.

JUST IN: Man struck by lightning as storms rage along coast

UPDATE 1 p.m.: Flood advisory issued for east and central Palm Beach County.

The advisory, which is in effect until 3 p.m., warns that heavy rains could cause minor flooding in areas with poor drainage.

Cities included in the advisory are West Palm Beach, Wellington, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth and Greenacres.

 

UPDATE 12:52 p.m.: A man was struck by lightning in Margate during today’s thunderstorms that are pummeling South Florida’s coast.

WPLG Channel 10 reports the man, who was taken to Broward Health North, is a landscaper.

Lightning over West Palm Beach today as thunderstorms torment coastal South Florida. Photo by Allen Eyestone

UPDATE 12:30 p.m.: West Palm Beach has been added to a significant weather advisory for strong thunderstorms extending along a line from the Port of Palm Beach into Broward County.

UPDATE 11:56 a.m.: A significant weather advisory has been issued for areas of southern Palm Beach County, including Boca Raton, as storms cling to the coast from West Palm Beach into Broward County.

Nickel-size hail and winds topping 45 mph are possible with these storms.

The advisory is in effect until 12:30 p.m.

A water spout Tuesday morning, July 7, 2015, off the coast of Manalapan. (Photo by Bruce Miller/The Palm Beach Post)

Previous story: The National Weather Service in Miami is warning of a moderate threat for waterspouts today with light wind shear loading the atmosphere for potential spin ups.

Meteorologist Robert Garcia said several pilots off of Palm Beach County called in Sunday to report waterspouts as they were landing at or leaving Palm Beach International Airport.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more activity today,” Garcia said. “Normally you want some wind shear, but not a lot of it, and some light winds that could allow them to spin up.”

RELATED: Clearing up the confusion of weather warnings 

Also, lapse rates, where the surface air warms and then rapidly cools as it rises into the atmosphere, are expected to be favorable for waterspouts.

The temperatures at about 18,000 feet is just 14 to 16 degrees (-9 to -10 Celsius), which could instigate thunderstorms this afternoon.

“Any convection that gets high enough into that colder air could become strong,” Garcia said. “We are already seeing decent lightning activity for a storm southeast of Miami.”

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Multiple waterspouts were spotted in the Florida Keys last week.

Florida remains under the influence of an area of low pressure over the central and norther areas of the Peninsula. The cyclonic (counter clockwise) flow of the low pressure means it is sucking in tropical moisture that will likely interact with the state’s Atlantic and Gulf Coast sea breezes today to create thunderstorms.

Garcia expects most of the storms to remain over the interior of the state, but light southeast winds at the surface make the storms a little unpredictable.

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The NWS morning discussion notes that showers could “propagate in random directions as outflow boundaries collide.” An outflow boundary is the rush of rain-cooled air that runs in front of a storm.

Temperatures should be about normal for this time of year with daytime peaks in the high 80s and overnight lows in the mid 70s.

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UPDATE: 61-mph wind gust recorded on Marco Island

Update 9:05 p.m.: Most of the active weather has been concentrated over coastal Collier County, Lake Okeechobee and northern Palm Beach County.

NWS meteorologists said the storminess should gradually diminish before midnight.

Update 8:27 p.m.: A wind gust of 61 mph was recorded on Marco Island. The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning with a possible tornado for an area south of Naples.

The warning in in effect until 8:45 p.m.

Update 8:10 p.m.: Some storms are moving into northern Palm Beach County that forecasters have identified as possibly severe.

A thunderstorm warning will expire at 8:15 p.m. for a region in north central Palm Beach County.

At 7:30 p.m., a thunderstorm wind gust of 49 mph was recorded over Lake Okeechobee, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

See current live radar here.

Radar image 8:09 p.m.

Previous story: A storm system that sent tornadoes charging through Alabama overnight is hitting Florida today, bringing the potential for severe thunderstorms to Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast near sunset to late evening.

Already, Central Florida is getting pelted with hail and fielding multiple thunderstorm and tornado warnings.

Hail in Oviedo Tuesday afternoon from cold front. March 20, 2018. Photo by Karen Quesenbury

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., has nearly all of Palm Beach and Martin counties under a marginal threat of severe weather today. St. Lucie County is under the more elevated “slight risk” of severe weather. Areas from Melbourne through Jacksonville are at an “enhanced” risk of severe weather – the third level on the center’s 5-tier threat scale.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

The biggest weather threats for Palm Beach County will be strong wind gusts, however large hail and tornadoes can’t be ruled out especially if the front arrives slightly earlier than expected, harnessing the heat of the day for more energy.

“There is a strong upper-level jet stream hitting Florida so any intense storms will bring some of those wind gusts to the surface,” said Matt Volkmer, a meteorologist with the NWS in Melbourne. “We’re thinking there is a bigger concern for straight line winds, but there is a low chance of a tornado or two.”

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Ahead of the storminess will be near-record heat, including in West Palm Beach where the temperature is forecast to reach 91 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

That’s 12 degrees above normal. The record high in West Palm Beach for March 20 is 92 degrees set in 1965.

The last time it reached 90 degrees in West Palm Beach was Sept. 26.

The high temperatures are partly a function of the counter clockwise turn of the low pressure system expected to push into the Atlantic near the North Carolina coast today. The cyclonic spin of the system drags tropical southwest winds through the state. In Palm Beach County, they travel over a larger fetch of solar-heated land throughout the day, amping up the heat.

Today is the first day of astronomical spring, but it won’t seem like it in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, where snow and possible coastal flooding as an area of low pressure moves off the coast near the Outer Banks of North Carolina and begins a trek north. Gale-force wind watches and warnings paint the coast from North Carolina through Maine, with a storm warning and coastal flood watch in New Jersey.

National Weather Service meteorologists said today’s storm will be the first of two “back-to-back nor’easters” that will hit this week. If that forecast holds true, it will mark five winter storms to menace the Northeast this month.

Location of the low pressure system and cold front as of 2 p.m.

South Florida has experienced see-sawing temperatures with those winter storms as trailing cold fronts raked through the area. The low this month in West Palm Beach was 45 degrees on Thursday – 17 degrees below normal. Monday’s high was 86 degrees, which was 8 degrees above normal.

“March is not an atypical month at all to have plenty of cold fronts move through South Florida,” said Andrew Hagen, a NWS meteorologist in Miami. “There were barely any in February so we’re just not used to it.”

High temperatures behind today’s front will dive into the mid to high 70s Wednesday, but struggle to reach 70 Thursday and Friday. Overnight lows dip to the low 50s Wednesday and Thursday.

In addition to 10 reports of tornadoes in Alabama on Monday were 75 reports of high wind across  northern Alabama into Georgia.

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Weather service cuts planned following year of record storms

The National Weather Service wants to cut hundreds of forecasting jobs on the heels of a year when weather disasters strafed the nation costing $306 billion in losses and stealing more than 360 lives.

The cuts, outlined in the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget, are part of an effort to streamline the 148-year-old agency and end the costly, yet venerated, practice of operating all weather forecasting offices 24-hours-a-day, year-round.

Hurricanes Katia, Irma and Jose all spun simultaneously in September 2017.

Of 355 weather service positions that would be lost nationwide through attrition, 248 are meteorologists making local forecasts, issuing severe weather alerts and launching twice-daily weather balloons to gather critical data from a layered atmosphere.

Florida has six of the nation’s 122 weather forecasting offices in Key West, Miami, Melbourne, Jacksonville, Tampa and Tallahassee.

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Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, expects one or more of Florida’s offices to be open fewer hours and with less employees — a move he said puts lives at risk in a state with multiple weather torments.

In just 2017, the Sunshine State was beset by tornadoes, drought, wildfires, floods, a March freeze, Tropical Storm Emily, the remnants of Philippe, a Cat 4 hurricane and deadly summertime thunderstorms.

Flagler Drive is raked by wind, rain and water from the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach Sunday afternoon, September 10, 2017 as winds from Hurricane Irma rake the county. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

“We are very close to our breaking point right now and if you cut hundreds more positions, we can’t do it,” said Sobien, a former meteorologist in Tampa’s NWS office. “The mission of the National Weather Service is to save lives. This budget would jeopardize that.”

Also on the chopping block…Read the full story to find out what else is at stake and how it may affect your forecast at MyPalmBeachPost.com.

Hurricane Irma rain totals, how much did your city get?

The National Weather Service has released rain totals for South Florida in the 48 hours preceding 1 p.m. Monday.

To read the information below, the first line would be 12 miles west of Boca Raton got 9.24 inches of rain.

Location/  Amount  / Time/ Date

…Palm Beach County…
12 W Boca Raton 9.24 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
15 W Boca Raton Equestrian 9.00 in 1132 AM 09/11 RAWS
2 WNW Aberdeen Golf Course 8.96 in 0816 AM 09/11 COCORAHS
Aberdeen Golf Course 8.68 in 0700 AM 09/11 COCORAHS
Loxahatchee 8.08 in 1105 AM 09/11 RAWS
Lake Harbor 7.75 in 1105 AM 09/11 SLOF1
Boynton Beach 7.56 in 0700 AM 09/11 COCORAHS
2 NNW Boca Raton 7.36 in 1141 AM 09/11 CWOP
Jupiter 7.35 in 1154 AM 09/11 CWOP
3 N Florida Gardens 6.61 in 0800 AM 09/11 COCORAHS
1 S Juno Beach 6.47 in 0700 AM 09/11 COOP
3 W Jupiter 6.32 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
13 SSE South Bay 6.03 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
3 NW Haverhill 5.90 in 1155 AM 09/11 CWOP
North Palm Beach 5.64 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
W. Palm Beach Canal At S-352 5.59 in 0800 AM 09/11 GOES
Boynton Beach 5.39 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
Lantana 0.3 E 5.05 in 0700 AM 09/11 COCORAHS
1 S Boca Raton 4.65 in 0802 AM 09/11 CWOP
3 WNW Belle Glade 4.46 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
3 S Delray Beach 4.12 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
1 NE Lake Worth 4.07 in 0700 AM 09/11 COCORAHS
Lake Worth 3.92 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP


A mobile home and car crushed by a tree on NW 6th Street in Belle Glade, Florida on September 11, 2017. The home and car was damaged by hurricane Irma. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

 

…Broward County…
7 W Plantation 10.81 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
1 S Wilton Manors 9.94 in 1017 AM 09/11 CWOP
1 WNW Miramar 9.92 in 0700 AM 09/11 COCORAHS
4 W Fort Lauderdale 9.90 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
3 SW Coral Springs 9.72 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
Ft. Lauderdale Exec 9.57 in 1105 AM 09/11 ASOS
2 SSE Weston 8.80 in 0700 AM 09/11 COCORAHS
2 SE Plantation 8.10 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
2 NW Carol City 8.00 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
Sunrise 7.95 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
1 E Lauderdale Lakes 7.68 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
Miramar 7.53 in 1105 AM 09/11 SFWMD
2 WNW Deerfield Beach 6.76 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
Pompano Beach 6.39 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
Pompano Beach 6.20 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
31 W Coral Springs 5.90 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
1 SE Pompano Beach 5.88 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
1 E Weston 5.23 in 0920 AM 09/11 CWOP

…Collier County…
Naples 11.46 in 0700 AM 09/11 COOP
1 NW Miles City 10.79 in 1111 AM 09/11 RAWS
Panther East 10.73 in 1111 AM 09/11 RAWS
9 SW Big Cypress Semino 10.55 in 1145 AM 09/11 RAWS
5 SE North Blocks Golde 10.41 in 1111 AM 09/11 RAWS
Panther West 10.36 in 1111 AM 09/11 RAWS
3 ESE Sunniland 10.23 in 1145 AM 09/11 RAWS
Oasis Ranger Station 9.90 in 1105 AM 09/11 RAWS
1 W Ochopee 9.61 in 1103 AM 09/11 RAWS
Raccoon Point 7.72 in 1105 AM 09/11 RAWS
8 N Dade-collier Train 7.53 in 1122 AM 09/11 RAWS

…Glades County…
3 NNW Brighton Seminole 7.74 in 1132 AM 09/11 RAWS
1 NE Moore Haven 7.70 in 0745 AM 09/11 UCOOP
12 WSW Buckhead Ridge 7.30 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
9 SW Buckhead Ridge 7.11 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
3 NW Moore Haven 6.98 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
Lakeport 2e 6.60 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
15 W Buckhead Ridge 6.18 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
7 WSW Buckhead Ridge 6.18 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
14 WNW Buckhead Ridge 6.03 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP

…Hendry County…
2 W La Belle 10.31 in 0700 AM 09/11 COCORAHS
Big Cypress Semino 8.23 in 1105 AM 09/11 RAWS

…Miami-Dade County…
7 WNW Inlikita 13.63 in 1123 AM 09/11 RAWS
4 W Royal Palm Ranger 11.31 in 1123 AM 09/11 RAWS
North Miami 8.19 in 0700 AM 09/11 COCORAHS
Opa-Locka Airport 8.03 in 1105 AM 9/11 ASOS
10 W Miramar 7.53 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
7 W Sweetwater 6.97 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
Miami WFO 6.96 in 0700 AM 09/11 UCOOP
2 ESE Miami Springs 6.94 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
5 E Leisure City 6.88 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
El Portal 6.79 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
Princeton 6.79 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
5 SW Florida City 6.49 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
3 NE Cutler Ridge 6.48 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
Miami Lakes 6.33 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
7 WNW Richmond Heights 6.18 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
9 W Sweetwater 6.11 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
3 SSE Cutler Ridge 6.07 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
North Miami Beach 5.59 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
2 WNW Leisure City 5.47 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
4 S Cutler Ridge 5.28 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP
2 NNW Country Walk 5.14 in 0725 AM 09/11 CWOP
6 ESE Leisure City 4.04 in 0800 AM 09/11 UCOOP

Hunters average 3 python kills per day since program restart

Python hunters have averaged three kills per day since an experimental program to reduce their population in the Everglades restarted June 17.

In total, the 25 hunters chosen for the program have taken 234 invasive pythons out of the Everglades since the hunt began March 25.

The original program sunset June 1, but South Florida Water Management Governing Board members agreed to continue it through Sept. 30.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Python hunter Donna Kalil and one of her kills from the recent restart of the water management district’s python hunt.

One of the most successful hunters, Dusty “Wildman” Crum, brought in a snake on Monday that had 73 eggs in it, he told Channel 10 news in Miami.

Crum holds the record for the largest snake brought in with a python that was nearly 17-feet long.

VIDEO: Watch Dusty “Wildman” Crum stalk and catch nearly 17-foot python. 

In a video of the python takedown, Crum stalks the snake barefoot in a heap of underbrush and wrestles it out, ending up on the ground himself.

“That’s a big snake, boys,” Crum said into the camera. “That’s how we do it in the Everglades, son.”

Ruben Ramirez with one of his pythons caught since the program restarted June 17.

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Urgent request for county workers to staff hurricane shelters

An “urgent request” for hundreds of Palm Beach County employees to train for hurricane shelter duties was made this week following a decision to end the county’s dependence on Red Cross volunteers during storm emergencies.

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker said in an email to employees Thursday that teams of trained county workers will partner with school district staff to manage the county’s 15 shelters.

“We will no longer be relying on Red Cross to perform this function,” Baker said. “We must take care of our own and shelters are a critical component of our emergency response system.”

Related: Drug overdoses new challenge for hurricane shelters.

Boynton Beach resident Freddy Granados and his daughter Chelsea, 2, check into shelter at Park Vista high school with family members Thursday afternoon around 3:45 pm. The family said their community informed them about the shelter. “We live on the first floor of an apartment and we were concerned about flooding,” Granados said. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

The move comes after as many as 20 counties statewide struggled to open and staff shelters during October’s Hurricane Matthew — the first time since 2004 and 2005 that widespread evacuations were called for in Florida.

Matthew, which was a Category 4 cyclone as it approached the state, threatened counties from Palm Beach to the Georgia border, forcing areas further inland to open shelters to accommodate people fleeing the coasts.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Brevard County was one of 20 that called the Florida Division of Emergency Management for shelter workers during Matthew, said Kimberly Prosser, director of Brevard’s division of emergency management.

Prosser said the Florida National Guard was forced to staff Brevard’s shelters.

“Brevard County will now rely on county employees for this,” Prosser said.

A spokesman for the Florida Division of Emergency management said no one was available to answer questions about statewide shelter issues, but that state officials are working to identify any potential staffing problems.

Hurricane Matthew on Oct. 6, 2016

In Palm Beach County, 49,000 people in mobile or manufactured homes, and 90,000 who live on barrier islands or along some areas of the Intracoastal, were asked to evacuate for Matthew.

Nearly 8,000 fled to general population shelters, 184 stayed in a special-needs shelter and 245 went to the pet-friendly shelter at West Boynton Recreation Center.

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

Jon VanArnam, deputy Palm Beach County administrator, said there were concerns during Matthew about getting enough Red Cross volunteers for shelters and getting the shelters open in a timely manner.

“The Red Cross has been a great partner,” VanArnam said. “But ultimately the responsibility to make all these things work falls under the county so we have to make sure all the shelters can open when we need to open them.”

In a statement, the Red Cross said Palm Beach County’s decision to open eight shelters during Matthew, followed by another request for five more as evacuations were made mandatory “stretched the capacity of many agencies.”

“But the fact remains, that the Red Cross opened and staffed all of the general population shelters requested by the county as well as one pet shelter,” the statement said.

Related: No models forecast Matthew’s rapid strengthening.

Many of Palm Beach County’s more than 6,000 employees already work during hurricanes, such as fire-rescue and utilities workers.

Those not designated to an emergency management post, and who apply for training first, will get choices of shelter assignments. They will be paid based on their exempt status, but VanArnam said the county is usually reimbursed for those costs if a disaster declaration is made.

Challenges with opening and staffing shelters during Matthew were a reoccurring theme at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in May.

Levy County’s Emergency Management Director John MacDonald said he stopped relying on the Red Cross before Matthew threatened.

“I won’t use them again, ever,” MacDonald said during the conference. “We had an instance where they were going to manage the shelter and there was nobody there. I can’t afford that.”

But Charles Parker, a senior disaster program manager for American Red Cross South Florida, said problems weren’t always the fault of the Red Cross. He said the Red Cross was left out of some shelter planning discussions, and, in some cases, learned shelters were opening through media reports.

Still, Bill Johnson, director of Palm Beach County’s Emergency Operations Center, said it’s unwise to rely wholly on volunteers who worry about their own families during emergencies.

“In this day and age, we are seeing volunteerism decline,” Johnson said at the conference. “It’s tough when you are a volunteer and you are staring at a Cat 4 storm and you have to ask whether you are going to take care of your stuff and your family. I can see why people may change their minds.”

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