Recovering from the storm and bracing for the next one
Blasts of rain, high winds and flood waters hit the region last week as the effects of Hurricane Hermine swept in, causing Tampa Bay residents in many communities to retrieve what they could, and discard what was lost.
Trees crashed into roofs. Cars flooded. Water seeped into homes.
In some parts of the region, residents had to be rescued by boat.
Patients at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson were evacuated on the evening of Aug. 31, after the hospital in Hudson experienced what it believes was a lightning strike on a main power feed on the hospital’s roof, disabling the hospital’s ability to run a safe switch for generator backup.
A brief fire broke out on the roofline, but no one was hurt.
The hospital evacuated all of its 209 patients to other hospitals in the region, through a cooperative effort that included its sister HCA West Florida Hospitals, 70 EMS ambulances, 10 engines companies, three ambulance buses, two task forces, 10 sheriff’s units and the Pasco Emergency Command, according to a statement issued by the hospital.
Hermine was still a tropical storm as it made its way toward Tampa Bay, but it was upgraded to Hurricane Hermine on the afternoon of Sept. 1 and made landfall at St. Marks on Sept. 2, becoming the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida in 11 years.
While it is obviously too late to prepare for the wrath of Hermine, this may be a good time to take stock of your preparations and fill any gaps before the next big storm hits.
Here are some pointers, gleaned from a plethora of sources, intended to help you to protect yourself, your loved ones and your property.
First things, first: Prepare
• Be sure to have an evacuation plan for your family. Everyone in your family should know the plan, and it’s a good idea to occasionally do practice drills, to avoid confusion if a time comes when you need to use it.
• Know your evacuation zone. Do you need to leave or can you shelter in place?
• Is there someone living nearby that you know will need assistance? Maybe you can help, or suggest another source of assistance.
• If you have a pet, have a plan for it. If you will need to evacuate, know where you can take your pet with you. Be sure to prepare a hurricane kit for your pet, including food, any medicines, toys, a bed and so on.
• Prepare a hurricane kit for your family. It should include one gallon of water per person per day for several days; nonperishable food items including juices, crackers, breakfast and protein bars, canned and dried fruit, peanut butter and bread; utensils for eating, including paper cups and plates, plastic utensils. Plan to be able to eat and drink for several days without the use of electricity, in case power gets knocked out and roads are impassable.
• Stock up on hurricane supplies. These should include flashlights, batteries, self-powered portable lights, waterproof sheeting, a nonelectric food storage cooler, a portable generator and reusable ice.
• Have personal items readily available. These should include blankets and pillows; hygiene supplies, moisture wipes and toilet paper; waterproof and seasonal clothing; reliable shoes; a first-aid kit and special medications; tools; and, cameras.
• Protect your documents in a watertight plastic bag or waterproof container.
• Fill your gas tank and have plenty of cash on hand, in case the storm knocks out power from gas pumps and ATMs.
• Move your car as far inland as possible and on higher ground, to protect it from possible flooding, but do not park it next to a tree.
• Stay away from windows during the storm.
Protect your property
• Well before any major storm hits, be sure to review your insurance. Be sure you have the proper amount of coverage to protect your home, business and belongings.
• Use permanent storm shutters or plywood to protect your windows. Be sure the protection is securely fastened.
• Remove items around your home that could act as projectiles in high winds. Such objects include potted plants, barbecue grills, garden gnomes, chairs and garbage cans.
• Safeguard your boat: Strap down your boat, when ashore, with proper straps rated for the proper weight. If your boat is in the water, remove your boat from water and store it on high ground. If using a dry dock facility, be sure it was built after Hurricane Andrew.
If going anywhere after the storm, be safe
• Be sure to have an evacuation plan for your family.
• Learn the quickest evacuation route and shelters. Learn the quickest evacuation routes and shelters. Bring an emergency kit. Have mobile phones or radios to maintain communications.
• Use caution when driving. Don’t drive through moving or standing water. Water that is 2 feet deep can disable most vehicles, and vehicles can be carried away.
• Observe detours and barricades. They are there for your protection.
• Be careful around downed power lines. Always assume they are live.
• When traffic lights aren’t working, treat the intersection as a four-way stop.
• If walking, avoid standing water. Floodwaters may contain fecal matter, bacteria and viruses.
• Be aware that metal fences, mailboxes, poles and even nonmetal objects, such as wood and standing water, become conduits for electrical lines, so use care when assessing damage to your home and car.
Recovering from the storm
• Contact your insurance agent to report any covered damage to your home, apartment or vehicle.
• Take photographs because conditions sometimes change. Be sure to have detailed photographs, so you can submit them with your claims.
• Save receipts for all dining, hotel, medical, hygiene and even entertainment. Some of these items may be eligible for reimbursement. Save the receipts from the time you leave your home until you return to live in it.
• Remember that even spoiled food items, up to a limit, may be covered by your homeowner’s insurance.
• Be sure to use plastic sheeting to cover roof damage and/or broken windows, to keep water from entering your home or business.
• Before trimming trees, check to be sure there are no power lines nearby. If there are, hire a professional.
Don’t be scammed
• Watch out for scams and unlicensed contractors. Verify the contractor’s business license and insurance. Do not accept verbal quotes. Make them put it in writing.
• Hiring an unlicensed contractor can pose many dangers. An unlicensed contractor may be uninsured, may lack the proper qualifications, could do poor quality work or could leave before the work is finished.
• Hiring an unlicensed contractor can also put the homeowner on the hook for personal injury to others. Most homeowner insurance policies also require work to be performed by a licensed contractor and provide no coverage for work that is not.
• Consumers can verify professional licenses that fall under the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s jurisdiction by visiting MyFloridaLicense.com, calling (850) 487-1395, or downloading the free DBPR Mobile app available in the iTunes and Google Play app stores.
• Information on services requiring a state-issued professional license from DBPR and how to report suspected unlicensed activity is available online at tinyurl.com/zre9zky.
Sources: Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation, Boatsetter, and Tree Care Industry Association.
Published September 7, 2016