In a high growth area, counties reach out to newcomers with a hurricane expo.

FOUR CORNERS – In the Four Corners area, there’s a mix of new permanent residents, snowbirds, British and European tourists and business owners, and timeshare vacationers. The area where the counties of Lake, Orange, Osceola and Polk come together is transient, with newcomers moving in all the time.
It’s also a place where residents may not have lived in Four Corners very long, and where the summer of 2004 most likely was spent in another part of the country – or even somewhere else across the globe – and not in Central Florida.
That’s one reason why Sean Loughlin is hoping to reach out to the community, and fast.
“That’s why we’re trying to address those folks who are new to the area, and let a lot of these folks learn something new and be able to leave a little more prepared for the season,” Loughlin said.
That season he’s referring to is the current hurricane season, which started on June 30 and continues until Nov. 30. It can be quiet – as it was in the past few years.
But it can also be devastating, as it was in the summer of 2004, when no fewer than three hurricanes crossed Central Florida, causing considerable damage to homes, businesses and government buildings.
The first one, Hurricane Charlie, struck on Aug. 13, 2004, followed by Hurricane Frances over the Labor Day Weekend and Hurricane Jeanne a week later. Having three storms hit in one season was a shocker for a lot of longtime Central Florida residents, since it had been decades since a hurricane came this far inland.
That’s why Loughlin, the disaster assistance coordinator for the Lake County Emergency Management Division, is urging local residents to attend the Fifth Annual Four Corners Hurricane Expo on Saturday, June 25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Cagan Crossings Community Library, 16729 Cagan Oaks. The library is right off U.S. 27 in the South Lake County section of Four Corners, right above the Polk County line.
The free hurricane expo is a collaborative effort between the four counties and will feature informational booths from local disaster agencies and a display of emergency response apparatus. Lake County Emergency Management will also be holding a drawing for free weather radios during the event.
And, of course, the event will re-enforce the message that this is a good time to take some simple steps to prepare for the possibility of a busy hurricane season, Loughlin said.
“That’s what we’re going to focus on,” he said. “Those folks who are new to the area, we want to give them some attention as well, because Four Corners is a populated area, but it’s still a good distance away from Orlando.”
If local residents didn’t live through the 2004 hurricane season, Loughlin said, they might not be aware of just how devastating a storm can be.
“We’ll be giving away weather radios, and we’ll be having some of the vendors in the area talking about what to do to prepare now,” Loughlin said. “It’s going to be a good informational day for folks in general. There will be 20 to 25 agencies there, and we’ll have booths from Lowe’s, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, News Channel 13, and the four county government agencies. We’re going to provide some public safety folks there as well.”
Lake County also plans to use this event to highlight its LakeAlert system, which notifies county residents by phone in the event of a natural disaster. Earlier this year, the county expanded the program to let people sign up if they don’t have a land line phone, so now they can get alerts on their cell phones or Ipads.
“Our Lake County Emergency Management booth will be hitting that heavy to people, as far as that service being offered, “ said Kelly LaFollette, Lake County’s information outreach director. “We’re not really doing any presentations this year, although we do have one speaker.”
That’s going to be Central Florida News 13’s chief meteorologist, Jeff Day, who will be appearing at 11 a.m. to present an informational talk on the 2011 hurricane season and the importance of weather radios.
“He’ll be highlighting what’s come out about the 2011 hurricane season predictions, and talking about weather radios and how important they are, and we‘re going to be giving away some weather radios,” LaFollette said.
Other agencies participating in the event include American Red Cross, Lake County Emergency Management, Lake County Fire Rescue, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lake-Sumter EMS, Community Emergency Response Team of Orange, CERT of Polk, Polk County Squadron’s Civil Air Patrol, Florida Department of Financial Services, Progress Energy, Rebuilding Together of Polk County, Inc., and The Salvation Army.
“We’ll be talking about shelters, too,” Loughlin said. “We want you to know, depending on which county you live in, where you have to go to get to your county’s shelter.”
For more information about the Four Corners Hurricane Expo, call the Lake County Emergency Management Division at 352-343-9420.

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About Michael Freeman

Michael W. Freeman is a veteran journalist, playwright and author. Born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts, he has lived in Orlando since 2002. Michael has worked for some of Florida’s largest newspapers, including The Orlando Sentinel. His original plays have draw strong audiences at the Orlando Fringe Festival. He is the author of the novels “Bloody Rabbit” and “Koby’s New Home.”

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