Area prepares for flooding, wind

With Hurricane Dorian bearing down on Florida, the state is bracing itself for impact.

Gov. Ron DeSantis also declared a State of Emergency in the state’s 67 counties, and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody activated the state’s Price Gouging Hotline.

Both Hillsborough and Pasco counties have declared a state of emergency.

In an advisory issued at 11 a.m., Aug. 30 from the National Hurricane Center, “life-threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the Florida east coast by early next week, but it is too soon to determine where the highest storm surge and winds will occur. Residents should have their hurricane plan in place, know if they are in a hurricane evacuation zone, and listen to advice given by local emergency officials.”

Pasco County didn’t feel the full fury of Hurricane Irma’s wrath, but some other communities were less fortunate. (Courtesy of Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council)

The advisory continues, “a prolonged period of storm surge, high winds and rainfall is

likely in portions of Florida into next week, including the possibility of hurricane-force winds over inland portions of the Florida peninsula.”

Dorian could strengthen to a Category 4 hurricane before making landfall on Florida.

The Pasco County Commission last week declared a local state of emergency, which allows County Administrator Dan Biles and Emergency Management Director Andy Fossa the ability to waive everyday procedures, and do whatever they feel is necessary to ensure public health and safety.

The declaration allows Biles and Fossa the freedom to order evacuations, perform public work, make emergency purchases, rent equipment, hire workers, use volunteers, and so on.

The Local State of Emergency remains in effect for seven days, or until Biles rescinds it, if it is no longer needed.

To help residents prepare for potential flooding, Pasco County opened several sandbag locations, which included Land O’ Lakes Recreational Complex, in Land O’ Lakes; Pasco County Public Works (C-Barn) in San Antonio; Wesley Chapel District Park in Wesley Chapel; and, Old Dade City Police Station, in Dade City.

The City of Zephyrhills also opened a sandbag location at Fire Station 2 in Zephyrhills.

In an abundance of caution, the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce cancelled its monthly business breakfast scheduled for Sept. 3.

Hurricanes can easily topple and down trees, which can cause major damage. (File)

It also sent its members links to information that could help them prepare for Hurricane Dorian.

Saint Leo University planned to close on Sept. 1 and to remain closed through Sept. 3, at its main campus and several other locations. Students, faculty, and staff were advised to check the Saint Leo University website at SaintLeo.edu for updates, especially concerning classes on Wednesday.

All Rasmussen College campuses in Florida also were scheduled to close Sept. 1 and remain closed until at least Sept. 3, to give students, faculty and staff time to prepare for weather conditions, and to ensure they are safe.

Pasco County Schools’ Place child care and Beyond-the-Bell programs will be closed Sept. 3.

The Pasco County School Board meeting has been postponed from Sept. 3 until Sept. 10.

AdventHealth West Florida Division leaders also have activated emergency management teams to ensure the safety of patients and staff. Hurricane protocols include team staffing procedures, adequate water supply and backup generator power checks, according to a news release.

As always, emergency officials encouraged residents to take steps to prepare for potential impacts.

The Laker/Lutz News publishes information at the beginning of each hurricane season to help our readers prepare for a possible hurricane, and information intended to help deal with the aftermath of any damage.

Those tips, along with information gleaned from additional sources, is presented here.

Before a hurricane hits

Protect your property:

  • Trim trees and shrubs.
  • Clear out clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Put away outdoor furniture, windchimes, garbage cans, decorations, potted plants and other items that could become projectiles in high winds.
  • If you have a boat, secure it.
  • Cover windows with hurricane shutters or pre-cut plywood.

Protect yourself

  • Assemble an emergency kit: Be sure it has enough food and water to last up to seven days, according to the latest advice from experts.
  • The foods should be nonperishables that are easy to store and prepare, including dried fruit, canned pastas, soups, canned tuna, peanut butter and jelly, crackers, raisins, beef jerky. Be sure to include a can opener in your kit. (See our What’s Cookin’ column on page 5A for food safety advice).
  • The rule of thumb is to have 1 gallon of water per day for each person, for drinking and sanitation
  • Don forget baby formula and baby food
  • Stock up on disposable cups, plates and utensils
  • Sanitation supplies
  • Medications
  • First aid kit
  • A whistle to signal for help
  • A hand-cranked radio, or battery-powered radio with extra batteries
  • Moist towelettes for sanitation
  • Garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Be sure to have an emergency kit for your pets, too. It should include sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or a carrier; pet food, drinking water, bowls, cat litter, a litter pan; pet health records, current photos of your pets, in case they get lost; pet beds and toys.

Shelter

  • A sleeping back for each family member
  • Duct tape and heavyweight garbage bags or plastic sheeting (for shelter-in-place)
  • A wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Flashlights
  • Generator: Be sure to follow directions. These can kill, if used improperly.

Protect important documents

  • Keep in waterproof container on a shelf. Carry with you, if you evacuate.
  • Documents should include bank account records, marriage certificates or divorce decrees, driver’s license, Social Security card, passport, titles, deeds, income tax information, trusts, wills and birth certificates.

Prepare to stay, or go

  • If you live in an evacuation area, be prepared to leave. In Pasco County, mobile home residents must evacuate, no matter where they live, if the county issues an evacuation order.
  • Those living in a mandatory evacuation zone should prepare an evacuation plan that includes transportation routes and destinations, and considers all family members and pets.
  • If you plan to shelter in place, notify out-of-area contacts of your decision to stay. Be sure you have assembled your emergency kit and have a safe place to stay in your home.
  • If staying at home, fill up bathtubs or buckets with water to use for cleaning and toilet flushing.
  • Keep your gas tank three-quarters full at all times.
  • Have cash on hand.
  • Stay informed. Listen to an NOAA weather radio, or regularly check local forecasts and news reports.
  • Close all interior doors. Secure and brace exterior doors. Take refuge in a small interior closet, or hallway on the lowest level. Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
  • Stay away from windows and glass doors.

After the hurricane passes

  • Stay aware of threats from flooding and tornadoes.
  • Do not drive into water when you can’t see the bottom of the road.
  • Do not walk in standing water; it may contain contaminants, it might be deeper than it looks; it may have a strong undercurrent; or, it may be electrically charged with a downed wire.
  • Be careful about the foods you eat. If the power is out, your food may be spoiled.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning: Do not burn charcoal or gas grills inside a house, tents, garage, vehicle or fireplace. Do not use gas-powered generators indoors or in a garage.

If you have damage

  • Call an agent.
  • Take photos of the damage.
  • Make emergency repairs to avoid more damage, and keep receipts for tarps, lumber, etc.
  • Keep alert to potential scams.
  • Special needs sheltersThe Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough, Pasco and other Tampa Bay area counties is reminding medically dependent people to be prepared for severe weather emergencies.Special Needs Shelters are available for residents who meet specific criteria and should be used as a place of last refuge, according to the health department.

    Online registrations for the shelters stops about 48 hours before impact. Those who have not registered, but believe they should go, should monitor local media to find out which ones are open and are closest to them.

    Registration is preferred, but not required in an emergency.

    There has been some confusion about registration. Many people are under the impression that once they have registered, they are automatically reserved a bed when severe weather is coming. But, that is not correct, according to the health department.

    Residents need to know:

    • There is no guarantee of a reservation at a special needs shelter.
    • If someone is in an evacuation area and has registered, they will be contacted to confirm they are reporting to the special needs shelter.
    • If needed, upon request, Emergency Management will coordinate transportation to the shelter.
    • If they have a caregiver, the caregiver must accompany them and remain with them at the shelter.

    Who qualifies?

    Generally, those who may qualify include those who are oxygen dependent; those who need electricity for the medical equipment; those who have conditions that do not qualify for admission to the hospital, but exceed the capability of a general population shelter.

    To register online, go to:

Tips for businesses:

Before the storm

  • Be sure you have an evacuation plan, with escape routes.
  • Have an emergency communication plan, which includes: A staff text message/email; a method for reaching employees after hours; and, a single point of contact. Be sure to monitor the news, so you are up to date on the latest information.

After the storm:

  • Account for all employees.
  • Gather accurate information about damage. Conduct a full evaluation of infrastructure and coordinate next steps to get doors open.
  • Communicate with all parties involved.
  • Establish a safe place — which may be at your home or in another location — for you to resume your business as quickly as possible.
  • Use social media to keep customers aware of the status of your business. Have you reopened? Do you know when you will? Also, if possible, put a sign on the door of your business conveying the same type of information.
  • Contact your insurance company.
  • Take photographs of damaged assets.
  • Leave damaged property where it is, until the adjuster has made an official report.
  • Accompany the adjuster to point out damage during the inspection.
  • Make only repairs necessary to prevent further damage. Be aware that unauthorized repairs might not be covered.
  • Use care in selecting contractors. Hire only licensed contractors, who secure the appropriate building permits. (Watch for red flags, such as upfront cash only; contractors using leftover materials; incomplete contact information.)
  • If proposed insurance settlement seems unfair, contact the Florida Department of Insurance Regulation at FLOIR.com.

Source: Brian Ellis, Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council

Pasco Shelters, tiered activation
Tier 1:
Fasano Regional, Wiregrass High, Wesley Chapel High, Centennial Middle, Fivay High

Tier 2: River Ridge Middle/High, Weightman Middle, Stewart Middle, Sunlake High, Cypress Creek Middle High

Tier 3: Mitchell High, Odessa Elementary, Veterans Elementary, Oakstead Elementary, Pasco Middle, New River Middle, Bexley Elementary

Tier 4: Double Branch Elementary, Seven Oaks Elementary, Sanders Memorial Elementary, Connerton Elementary, Trinity Oaks Elementary, Schrader Elementary, Longleaf Elementary

Tier 5: Trinity Elementary, Chasco Elementary, Lacoochee Elementary, Denham Oaks Elementary, Watergrass Elementary, Pine View Elementary

Published September 4, 2019

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