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Lessons learned: What emergency management changed after 2004 hurricanes

Staff said they're already preparing for things that are five days away.

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Four hurricanes made landfall in Florida back in 2004. Three of those storms went through Polk County

"Our EOC back then was activated for about 45 days total for those three storms," emergency management director Paul Womble said. 

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Emergency managers learned some hard lessons from hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne. The storms left debris and homes destroyed. Fast-forward to 2017: the county couldn't avoid Hurricane Irma.

"We had more vegetative debris in Irma, a single storm than we did in the three storms combined in 2004. So, we're gearing up for that type of response again," Womble said.  

The staff is larger and the planning is better. More than 40 county employees are working day in and day out to make sure everyone has proper shelter.

"We're planning right now for 4 or 5 days away and then over the next couple of days that will turn into us planning for weeks at a time," Moore said.

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Several counties have declared a state of emergency already. Polk County emergency managers said they will do the same Friday morning.

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