Jim Judge, a lifelong Florida resident who's been involved with various aspects of emergency management for nearly 50 years, retired in 2021.
Now, after returning as Volusia County's deputy public protection director last year, he was named, as of April 14, interim emergency management director.
He recently spoke with The News-Journal about the upcoming hurricane season and offered tips for residents, especially those new to the drill.
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Q: Looking ahead at the 2022 hurricane season, Colorado State University has projected a more active than usual season, with 19 named storms, five more than the average year. Why?
We know that we're in a La Niña, as we have been for the last few years, so anything can happen this year. It's an above-average year. ... Also AccuWeather has come out with their forecast. They're looking at between 16 and 20 named storms, potential for 6 to 8 hurricanes, and anywhere from 3 to 5 could be major. The National Weather Service will come out with their forecast around the end of May. Colorado State and AccuWeather, they'll probably update their forecasts two more times as we get closer.
Q: How can residents prepare for hurricane season?
We've got a tax holiday coming up, that's May 28 through June 10. You can get batteries, flashlights, there's a certain amount of items that you can buy.
Q: How do you convince people to be prepared when they aren't expecting a major hurricane?
A lot of people think, 'Oh, it's only a tropical storm,' or, 'It's only a Category 1.' A slow-moving tropical storm can do more damage than a Category 2 moving at 16 mph because you're going to get all that rain and you're going to get all that wind. ... I always think about that Hurricane (Harvey in 2017) out in Texas. What did they have, about 70 inches of rain in 24 hours? Only 1 in 10 had flood insurance. It devastated families.
Q: What is the likelihood that a major storm could hit Volusia County?
Volusia County has never had a direct landfalling hurricane off of the Atlantic. Everything has been real close. It's been close a few times, but that's not to say it won't happen ... as it almost did with Matthew (in 2016).
Q: What are some ways people can learn more about hurricane preparedness?
We're working with the Volusia Community Organizations Active in Disaster. All the libraries have a plethora of preparedness information, whether it be special needs, general hurricane information, information on flood insurance.
Q: Which hurricane was the worst you've personally experienced?
Hurricane Andrew. I was deployed down there not long after the winds started blowing in Miami. ... they got hit hard and a lot of people were very overwhelmed with that. I did get out into the community and there was tremendous destruction. I mean ... miles of cement telephone poles laid over. Metal wrapped around trees. Condos with the whole side blown off. Traffic lights, electricity out for a long time. .. .It was like a 20-mile-wide tornado, literally, and the destruction was incredible.
Q: What parts of Volusia County are the most susceptible to hurricane damage?
I would say probably our coastal community. If we get a strong storm that would come in from the Atlantic or come very close like a Matthew, storm surge. ... You get the flooding that goes with that and then you've got the people who are cut off from being able to get out. So we always encourage evacuation. If we get a Category 1, we're going to evacuate the barrier island. We also want people along the Intracoastal Waterway along the west side because that water can push up in their backyards. ... Hurricane Matthew I remember we had 48% of the county without electricity. The whole east side was really impacted.
Q: If you're going to an emergency shelter, what should you bring?
Aluminum beach chairs — when you can lay them out, put a blanket over them — they're comfortable. We do provide cots at special-needs shelters, but we don't provide cots at the regular shelters. ... Leave the guns at home. Don't bring any alcohol. Bring something to read. Bring warm clothes, comfortable clothes. ... Stuff to entertain the kids. If you've got friends, if you want to get a hotel room, that's the better way to go. We always say a shelter is a lifeboat. It's not the Love Boat.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story made reference to a Hurricane Expo that had been planned by Volusia County for May 21. That event has been canceled.
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This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Hurricane Season 2022: Q&A with Volusia emergency management director