Florida’s annual Hurricane Season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, and Tropical Storm Elsa was heading toward the Tampa Bay region, when The Laker/Lutz News went to print.
Regardless of what happen with this storm, experts are predicting higher-than-normal activity, and they urge residents to be ready to respond, if a hurricane or tropical storm threatens.
Here are some practical pointers to help you to prepare for the storm, stay safe when it hits and recover after it.
What to do now:
Assemble hurricane kits
Supply kits vary, depending on the size of the family and whether there are infants, elderly people or pets. Be sure to consider individual needs, when assembling your kit.
Your pet emergency kit 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.
In general, kits should include:
- Drinking water (at least 1 gallon per person per day, for at least seven days)
- Food that doesn’t require refrigeration and a manual can opener. Be sure to have a seven-day supply of food, including items such as protein bars, dried fruit, canned pastas, canned soup, canned tuna, peanut butter, crackers, baby formula, baby food.
- A two-week supply of medications
- Personal hygiene items, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, wet wipes, deodorant, toilet paper, face masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and diapers, if needed.
- Clothing and footwear
- Books and games, to help pass the time
Other useful items:
- A battery-powered or hand-cranked radio (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Radio)
- A first aid kit
- A flashlight, batteries, a helmet and a whistle.
- A solar-powered phone charger
- A printed list of important telephone numbers.
- Filter masks to protect your mouth and nose
- A whistle to signal for help
- Seasonal rain gear, sturdy shoes or boots
- Paper plates, plastic utensils, plastic cups
- Grill, cooking tools, fuel, charcoal
- Hand tools, automotive repair tools
- Duct tape and heavyweight garbage bags or plastic sheeting
- A wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
Protect your property
- Trim your trees and shrubs, to avoid damage from high winds.
- Clear out clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
- Document your valuables, by making a list of them, and taking photos of them and your property.
- Cover windows with pre-cut plywood or hurricane shutters.
- Store outdoor furniture, windchimes, garbage cans, decorations, potted plants and other items that could become projectiles in high winds.
- If you have a boat, determine how and where to secure it.
- If you live in a flood-prone area, use sandbags to help keep water from entering your home or property.
Have a plan for staying, or evacuating
Whether evacuating or sheltering in place, be sure to put important documents into a waterproof and fireproof container. These documents can include driver’s licenses, your insurance agent’s name and phone number, copies of medical information, insurance policies, and property inventories. Take photos of your documents or scan them and save them on a USB drive, or a cloud-based computer application.
Have a go bag ready. It should include medications, clothing and important documents.
Have an evacuation plan. Check now with family and friends, to see if you can stay with them. If not, look for places to stay that are 10s of miles, rather than hundreds of miles away.
Know how to find the state’s evacuation routes.
Keep your gas tank 3/4s full or more, during hurricane season. Have cash on hand.
If you need assistance to evacuate, be sure to line that up now. If you need to go to a special needs shelter, register now.
Be sure to share your evacuation plan with someone who is outside of the danger zone.
Know what to do, if a storm is threatening. Experts suggest that you:
- Go inside immediately; take family and pets with you.
- Close all interior doors. Secure and brace exterior doors. Take refuge in a small interior closet, or hallway on the lowest level. Choose a room with as few windows as possible. Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
- Fill bathtubs or buckets with water to use for cleaning and toilet flushing.
- Monitor local TV stations and radio stations.
- Don’t be fooled by a lull in the storm. It could be the eye of the storm and the winds could resume.
- Stay in place until advised it’s safe to leave.
Staying safe, after the storm
- Avoid walking through standing water. Floodwaters may contain fecal matter, bacteria and viruses.
- Don’t drive through moving or standing water. Water 2-feet deep can disable most vehicles.
- Treat non-functioning traffic signals as a four-way stop.
- Observe all barricades and detours. They are there for your protection.
- Clear yard of debris or items that can block water flow and storm drains.
- Assume downed power lines are live; avoid them.
- Keep an eye out for alligators and other wildlife. Floods create an opportunity for them to come into residential areas.
- Drain items that collect rainwater to help prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
- Re-enter your home with caution.
- Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.
- Check refrigerated foods for spoilage.
- Beware of snakes, insects and other animals driven to higher ground by floodwater.
- Turn power off if house was flooded.
- Do not burn charcoal in your house or garage, the fumes can be deadly.
- Do not use gas-powered generators indoors or in a garage, the exhaust can be lethal.
- If you’re using a generator, do not plug it into a building’s wiring. This can cause generator back-feed, which is extremely dangerous for utility workers and for anyone in the public who comes into contact with a downed electrical wire.
- If you have been evacuated, do not return to your home until authorities tell you that it is safe to do so.
Dealing with property damage
- Make emergency repairs to limit the damage. Be sure to keep receipts for tarps, lumber and so on. But be careful, because inexperienced people attempting repairs are sometimes injured.
- Take photos of the damage to help in filing insurance claims.
- Contact your insurance claims agent as soon as possible.
- Be wary of potential scams. Use licensed contractors to make repairs. Be sure to obtain a written estimate or contract. Require start and completion dates, and payment terms in the contract. Do not pay in full before the work begins and do not pay the final balance until the work is finished.
Counseling & support
Living through a disaster can be overwhelming. Take time to process the experience. Reach out to family and friends for support. If additional help is needed, take advantage of free counseling services that are available. Children may experience fear, nightmares or other symptoms. Talk to them honestly about the disaster and share your emotions about it.
Sources: Pasco County and Hillsborough County websites, their 2021 emergency preparedness guides and The Laker/Lutz News archives.
Keep up to date about storm dangers
Sign up to ALERT PASCO for emergency updates. Visit bit.ly/AlertPasco.
Visit HCFLGov.net/HCFLAlert to sign up for Hillsborough County emergency updates.
Written for July 07, 2021 publications
Revised July 5, 2021
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