hurricane shelters

Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Caitie Switalski / WLRN

Weather officials have been able to reduce forecasting errors for a hurricane's track, including its "cone of uncertainty," in the last 20 years. But more research is needed to better predict how intense a storm will be.

That's according to National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham, who spoke on a panel Thursday at the Broward County Emergency Operations Center in Plantation. 

With hurricane season in full swing, staff at Florida's evacuation shelters are busy making preparations like what to do for specials needs evacuees and where to send victims of domestic violence. But this year they're practicing for a new issue — what to do if immigration officials want to take a look around.

Emily Michot / Miami Herald

Hurricane Irma last year strained Miami-Dade's plans for how to handle a major storm and its aftermath, and county leaders are rolling out changes as the 2018 cyclone season begins.

With another hurricane season around the corner, there could be some changes to the way school districts and counties receive reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the cost of storm shelters.

Wilson Sayre / WLRN News

As Hurricane Irma bore down on South Florida, Kevin Youngman and his family sought shelter at Falcon Cove Middle School in Weston. There, he found himself in enemy territory.

“I think it’s weird for us because we all went to the rival middle school, Tequesta Trace,” said Youngman, 25, as he relaxed on an air mattress in the school gym.

Wilson Sayre / WLRN News

While many people in shelters across South Florida are glued to televisions, anxiously waiting for Hurricane Irma to pass, there have been some happy moments as these shelters turn into mini communities.

Among stacks of blankets and air mattresses in the cafeteria at the Falcon Cove Middle School shelter in Weston, Hunter Fugh squirts icing from a tube onto a cake.

"It's chocolate flavored and it has chocolate frosting on the top. We’re eating cake because it’s my birthday," said now 6-year-old Hunter.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Hurricane Irma is still forecast to hit South Florida Sunday morning as a destructive Category 4 storm. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has ordered the largest mandatory evacuation for a hurricane in the county's history – some 660,000 people. And that also means South Florida’s largest-ever hurricane shelter response.