CEO, SCC Chamber
One of my favorite pictures of me as a kid was taken on Sept. 10, 1960. I’m a couple of months shy of my 3rd birthday, and sitting on the overstuffed arm of the sofa at my grandmother’s house in Venice, south down I-75. I’m wearing a bibbed-romper suit, and my blond curls are in total disarray (not much has changed…), but what is appealing about this picture is I’m laughing so hard at the camera.
What you would never get from this picture is why I was laughing and what happened next. I may have been only 2 and a-half, but I remember it well.
If you lived in Florida 57 years ago, you remember it too. My mother, who took the photo, was trying to keep me amused and entertained, and it was working — until a second after that photo was taken. A huge gust of wind blew in the window of the living room as Hurricane Donna made its way up Florida’s West Coast with 115 mph winds. I was blown off the sofa onto the hard terrazzo floor and had black eyes for the next two weeks. My grandmother’s house survived, but barely.
It’s been that long since this area took a direct hit from a hurricane, but that doesn’t mean we here in southeastern Hillsborough County can get complacent. In 2004, when we had weekly hurricane parties beginning with Charlie and ending with Jeanne, we didn’t have a direct hit, but we still had local damage, power outages and a mess to clean up.
Thursday, June 1, is the beginning of hurricane season, and this year is shaping up to be prime for storms. The Gulf of Mexico is warmer than usual for this time of year. It’s difficult to pull a plan together on short notice when you’re busy running a business.
Don’t be left unprepared if one of these dangerous storms decides to come our way. There are several free publications and a few seminars on storm preparation. Take advantage of them, and learn what you need to know, from protecting your possessions, knowing when and where to evacuate, what services are available and how to recover from a storm’s damage.
Have a business plan so your employees know who is responsible for what. Don’t know where to start? Google “business hurricane disaster plans” and you can select from several. Just download them and customize them to fit your business.
Do you know which items you need to take with you if you need to evacuate? Do you know what’s best to include in your emergency supplies? If you have damage, do you know how to select an appropriate contractor to help you rebuild?
You can never be too prepared for a hurricane. Hopefully it will never happen to us. But if it does, we want you to be prepared.
That photo, taken seconds before the devastation, is a reminder for me of just how quickly life — and the weather — can change. Be prepared.