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Hurricane Ian provides test for emergency parking

Black car parked outside parking garage
Camana Bay fully initiated its hurricane parking programme for the first time in more than 10 years as Hurricane Ian passed.

Camana Bay employees tagged, parked and safely returned nearly 650 cars as Hurricane Ian passed, according to the property management team, which called it a successful venture while recognising lessons were learned in the process.

The recent full activation of the hurricane parking programme was the first in more than 10 years, said Dart Senior Property Manager Jeff Wight. Last year's storms prompted a partial activation.

“Overall, it went pretty well,” he said.

No vehicles sustained flooding damage, the drop-off process went smoothly and Wight said 98% of cars were available for pickup between 24-36 hours after the all-clear was given, per the programme's policy.

That said, Wight said that some members of the public voiced concern with the length of time it took for their vehicle to be ready for pickup.

While the policy states the process for vehicle returns, he believes the public's expectations changed because Ian did not produce significant flooding or damage.

Man in blue shirt with glasses smiling

"Most schools were open the next morning, so we understand it was a huge challenge,” he said.

"But we had people there maybe an hour after the all-clear," Wight said. "The thing that made Ian tough was [the storm] missed us, which is a wonderful thing. But if it hadn’t it missed us, people would not be worried about getting their car immediately."

When fully initiated, Camana Bay’s programme calls for the property management team to take control of both of Camana Bay’s parking garages. As such, it collects cars from owners in an adjacent lot, tags them and parks them in the garages. Vehicles are parked in order to maximise the garage's available space. After the all-clear, vehicles closest to the exit are moved to the surface lot and owners are notified they're available for pickup.

"How we've been doing it is, if your car was the first one in, it's going to be the last one out," Wight said. “Not everybody likes that."

When members of the public arrived before their vehicle was ready, it created delays. Those delays were compounded by others not coming for several days to collect vehicles in the surface lot across the street, which added congestion to an already crowded area.

“We don't have any surface lots that can hold 600 vehicles. So you're kind of doing it 100 cars at a time," Wight said. "There are things we've learned from it."

Camana Bay already has reached out to Premier Valet to potentially support the programme moving forward.

“And try to understand how they can help us because [valeting vehicles] is not our business,” Wight said. “This is a service to the community.”

This article was featured in the November 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

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