As Hurricane Nicole Took Aim at Florida, Palm Tran Aided Thousands

Dec. 27, 2022
Palm Tran lifted fares and provided more than 5,000 rides, assisting residents in preparing for the storm and evacuating them to shelters.

On the morning of Nov. 9, 2022, with waves of rain and wind increasing in frequency and intensity, close to a dozen homeless people began to gather outside the Delray Beach Library, waiting to catch a Palm Tran fixed-route bus to a shelter where they could weather impending Hurricane Nicole in safety.

“I didn’t have anywhere to go,” said Joshua Nebine, who patiently waited for the bus to arrive with a backpack and a book in hand.

“I don’t know why people would pass up this opportunity, I’ve been outdoors for too many storms,” John Gormley said to Delray Beach Police Officer Damien Ferraiolo, who was there as the community outreach officer assisting and encouraging the area’s homeless population to get to safety.

Palm Beach County was under a hurricane warning and two zones under mandatory evacuation, which included mobile homes, barrier islands and low-lying areas as Tropical Storm Nicole formed into a hurricane with a predicted landfall on the east coast of Florida in the early morning hours of Thursday, Nov. 10.

Just hours before the projected impact, Palm Tran lifted fares and provided more than 5,000 rides, assisting residents in preparing for the storm and evacuating them to shelters. All transportation services were completed by noon Wednesday, Nov. 9.

“We prepare every year for scenarios of a direct hit from a hurricane, which made this emergency response for the storm particularly smooth, and when a storm threatens Palm Beach County, Palm Tran is there to help the community,” said Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes. “Our Palm Tran team acted quickly. We were organized, we were able to get all our staff to designated areas, schedule necessary pickups for our Palm Tran Connection paratransit riders and also coordinate with local and county officials to make sure the most vulnerable in our community remained safe.”

At the Emergency Operations Center, Palm Tran Connection paratransit staff worked quickly to organize and schedule needed trips, including to the Special Needs Shelters located at the South Florida Fairgrounds. Under the leadership of Incident Commander Verdenia C. Baker, Palm Tran staff helped those with medical needs off paratransit vehicles and to safety at the Special Needs Shelter. Additionally, Palm Tran staff from all divisions assisted in checking in evacuees at two general public shelters, with several evacuees who were transported stating how grateful they were for the help in getting to safety.

Palm Tran fixed-route continued services and coordinated transportation to shelters for the homeless community by establishing four designated pickup locations. One of those stops was the Delray Beach library. Palm Tran operated until winds exceeded tropical storm force, requiring service to be suspended.

“I’m proud of our operations team; they worked diligently and got riders to safety in time to take all buses off the road by noon, securing the safety of our bus operators and staff,” said Charlie Boettiger, senior manager of fixed-route operations. “We kept the community and our staff safe, and we were ready to be back on the road as soon as the conditions improved and county officials declared it safe.”

Hurricane Nicole made landfall as a Category 1 storm just south of Vero Beach, sparing Palm Beach County of its strong winds and storm surge. Palm Beach County did experience flooding and coastal erosion due to coinciding king tide and storm conditions. The weather was mostly cleared by sunrise, and hurricane and tropical storm warnings were lifted by late morning. Palm Tran fixed-route, Go Glades dial-a-ride service and Palm Tran Connection paratransit service returned to normal operations at noon Thursday, Nov. 10, 24 hours after suspending service.

“We are grateful to everyone who came together to make sure our residents remained safe and secure during the storm,” Baker said. “This is a county of great leaders who have compassion for our citizens and commitment to serve. While we were spared from a direct landfall from Hurricane Nicole, we were able to reflect on how well the systems we have in place for emergencies work, and I am proud of our county officials and departments.”


Ivonne Perez is the senior public relations specialist at Palm Tran.

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Nov. 6, 2013