The PhoneyVacuation Plan

by John Hammerstrom…….

This piece was originally published in 2005. The satire is still germane, as Governor Scott has recently proposed greater development that would adversely affect evacuation safety. The original, valid concept of limiting growth so that the Keys could be evacuated in less than 24 hours has been perverted to the point of meaninglessness, because elected officials have incrementally excluded significant portions of the population from the evacuation calculation, trading public safety for development.


The PhonyVacuation Plan

A new proposal – PhoneyVacuation – promises a substantial improvement in hurricane evacuation clearance time that will facilitate unlimited building development and an increase in public safety.

It only requires that hurricane forecasters deliver nine days of warning before landfall of a hurricane, setting aside the nettlesome historical fact that many recent strong hurricanes surprised forecasters by intensifying from tropical storms to category 3 or greater hurricanes in less than 24 hours.

For the PhoneyVacuation plan, residents will be divided up into nine portions according to their last names and they will evacuate alphabetically over nine days, with the aid of the number/letter keys on a smart phone.

The “1” on a phone keypad has no letters associated with it and is an evacuation freebie. Relax, there’s plenty of time. Nobody need evacuate.

On your keypad, you’ll see the letters A, B and C, under the “2,” so you’ll evacuate on Day 2 if your last name starts with one of those letters. Similarly, those with last names starting with D, E or F will evacuate on Day 3, and so on, to Day 9.

Only the evacuation during Day 9 constitutes the Absolute 24-hour Clearance Time Limit – the “ACTL.” On that day, the Woods, X-Rated Adult Store, Youngs and Zimmermans should be able to drive from Key West to Florida City in under 4 hours. We will call this the “Clearance Time” which is substantially less than the 24 hour limit!

Now that’s safety!

With 20 hours to spare before we reach the 24-hour limit, we will now be able to build 50,000 or more new Affordable[?], Workforce and Tourist units in the Keys. The only way the Clearance Time will increase is if the last names of people in those new units begins with W, X, Y or Z! An unlimited number of new residents whose names start with A through V can be accommodated, since they will evacuate before the Clearance Time clock starts.

If the evacuation time of the folks on Day 9 in the W, X, Y and Z group starts to exceed the 24-hour Absolute Clearance Time Limit, or when those Affordable[?] units turn out to be not-so affordable and we then need to build even more than the 50,000 units, we have many options.

New dwelling units would only be sold to those with last names between A and V; we could pay people of the WXYZ group to change their surnames to one starting with A through V; we could use the 25-hour Martian day or, if need be, Pluto’s 135-hour day.

We call it the PhoneyVacuation plan.


John Hammerstrom

John Hammerstrom was a citizen member of the 2012 Monroe County Hurricane Evacuation Clearance Time Working Group.

Have a look also at Mr. Hammerstrom’s more serious writings on this topic:

“Safety First”  – June 8, 2012, Analysis of the Monroe County Clearance Time Assumptions and the Resulting MOU.

“A Brief History of Clearance Time (…with apologies to Stephen Hawking)” – September 23, 2008

The 2012 Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] between local Monroe County governments and the State’s Department of Economic Opportunity [DEO] can be viewed here:


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2 thoughts on “The PhoneyVacuation Plan

  1. John,

    I miss your friendship, many years of leadership and courageous action in service to citizens of the Florida Keys. Sincerely appreciate your taking the time to address this folly with astute and succinct analysis.

    Three (3) published letters in Free Press identify the continued assault perpetrated by county and developers upon the lives of ordinary residents attempting to secure a modicum of quality in their lives.

    Ridiculous, destructive and dangerous policies may be forced upon our island communities. Under the guise of fraudulently constructed proposals that will not, as they never have nor will, solve the alleged affordable/workforce housing dilemma; a Trojan Horse scheme of deceptions, which will destroy the environmental quality of our neighborhoods has been put together in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

    Authentic answers, strategies and solutions have been set forth regarding this issue, however, they don’t fit the over-development zeal and drive of government and its eager builders.

    Blessing & Respect, Always

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