While SWFL rarely or never has blizzards, mud slides, dust storms, and tornadoes, it can have hurricanes. Fortunately, Collier and Lee County are two of the most protected areas in the whole state. Most hurricanes hit the east coast of Florida, or the west coast from Tampa northward and over to the Gulf coast as it nears Alabama. As an example, the last two serious hurricanes for the Naples area were Hurricane Donna in 1960, then Hurricane Irma in 2017. Interestingly, they both hit on Sept. 10th, but nearly 60 years apart.
The best strategy is often to simply leave the area, but we recommend that you still do preparations as if you will be here during the storm or afterwards when utilities may be out. Evacuating from south Florida is a challenge due to the peninsula geography and the limited north/south roads. If you do evacuate, do so at least 5 days in advance to avoid slow traffic and so that you can easily find accommodations in Georgia, North Carolina, or wherever you choose to stop. Flying out is even better; go take an unplanned vacation.
Predicting the intensity of the storm is also difficult. Despite modern methodology, weather forecasters can be wrong about the storm rating and path of a hurricane. Storms sometimes substantially increase sin strength within a few hours, sand can make sharp turns, as Hurricane Charley did to Punta Gorda in 2004.
If your home was recently built or the windows replaced, you likely have storm windows that are rated for 155mph winds. You can feel fairly safe without additional window coverings. However, many homes were built earlier and have windows rated for a lower wind speed, so you may wish to consider putting plywood over the windows. If you are going to use plywood, you should purchase and have them cut to size in advance.
Alternatively, some homes have attachable or roll down hurricane shutters, which can be put on prior to the arrival of the storm. These are much easier than plywood The disadvantage of plywood or most shutters (as compared to storm windows) is they make the house very dark, although there are semi- clear shutters available. If you have electric shutters, it is recommended that you put them down 24 hours in advance of the storm. You could lose electricity before the storm actually reaches our area.
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