The Monroe County Commission will vote today on a plan that will provide a safe haven for Florida Keys residents and their pets when they are fleeing hurricanes and tropical storms.
The commission, which will meet at 9 a.m. at the Marathon Government Center, will vote on an agreement with Miami-Dade County to provide shelter space at the Miami-Dade County fairgrounds for 350 people and 150 pets evacuating the Keys, Monroe County Emergency Management Director Irene Toner said.
In the past, only about 50 to 60 Keys people have gone to Miami-Dade shelters during an evacuation, County Administrator Roman Gastesi said.
During one evacuation in 2005, 350 Keys people went to the Miami-Dade County shelter, but that is rare, Toner said.
"We always need to look at worst-case scenario," Toner said. "We want to give everyone an option."
The shelter building at the fairgrounds is designed to withstand 170 mph winds, and the fairgrounds can accommodate hundreds of vehicles, she said.
"It's a good dormant building," Gastesi said.
The shelters provide a safe haven from the storms. They do not provide substantial meals or comfort items.
The agreement comes several months after Florida International University in Miami ended its agreement with the county to allow general population evacuees to be housed on its campus. Evacuees had been going there since July 13, 1992. FIU did agree to accept special needs evacuees such as the infirm, hospitalized or elderly.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
Keys emergency management officials order a mandatory evacuation when a Category 3 or higher storm threatens the chain of islands. There are no shelters in the Keys built to withstand Category 3 or higher winds.
Monroe County has not ordered a mandatory evacuation of residents in more than two years. No major storm even threatened the Keys this year.