By LOIS KINDLE
It’s important to plan well ahead of an approaching hurricane so you’re not scrambling around at the last minute. Here are some tips to help you prepare for this year’s storm season and some additional information you might find interesting.
• Be aware of your evacuation zone and familiar with the route you’ll take if you’re told to leave by Hillsborough County officials. Officials say going to a shelter should be your last resort.
Heading to the home of a family member or friend who lives in a non-evacuation zone or making reservations at a hotel in one is often preferable. Shelters are limited in space, and most don’t allow pets.
“People in low-lying areas shouldn’t wait until the last minute to evacuate, said Dan Noah, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Ruskin. “If they do, their routes could be cut off by above-normal tides.”
He also advises folks to evacuate 10 miles away, rather than hundreds.
“Florida has too many people and not enough highways,” he said.
In some cases, going to safer ground closer to home can keep residents out of the direct path of the storm. By way of example, Noah stated residents who evacuated to Orlando when it looked like Hurricane Charley was aimed at Tampa Bay felt its impact when it jogged, skipped our area and headed there.
• Make a disaster supply kit, including the following: three days of nonperishable food and a gallon of water per person per day; first-aid kit; 30-day supply of medications; manual can opener; flashlight with fresh batteries; sanitation items; wind-up or battery-operated clock; matches in a waterproof container; battery-powered radio; and a NOAA weather radio. If you have pets, include food and water for them. You should also have cash on hand and a full gas tank.
• If you decide to evacuate to a shelter, South Shore has seven: Lennard High and Beth Shields Middle schools in Ruskin. (Both are ADA accessible and the latter is pet-friendly); Doby Elementary, Apollo Beach; Summerfield Crossings, Collins and Sessums elementary schools, Riverview; and Reddick Elementary in Wimauma.
• Preparing your home is also important. Trim away any damaged tree limbs and clear all gutters. Take loose items in your yard or on your porch or patio inside. Make sure you have a reinforced garage door or if not, buy a kit at a home-improvement store to help brace the one you have. Secure doors and windows with storm shutters or plywood. Take a home inventory.
• Know the dangers. A Category 1 hurricane has sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph, a Category 2, 96 to 110 mph. Category 3, 4 and 5 hurricanes are considered major. They carry sustained winds of 111 to 129 mph, 130 to 156 mph and more than 156 mph, respectively. Each carries the increasing danger of storm surge, property damage and loss of life.
• Despite all their destructive qualities, hurricanes provide some benefits. They bring rainfall to drought-stricken areas and help recharge underground aquifers; break up bacteria and red tide; help maintain and build barrier beaches; provide global heat balance by moving warm tropical air away from the equator and towards the poles; and replenish inland plant life.
• Finally, as an FYI, this year’s list of North Atlantic storm names includes Arlene (already used in April for a tropical storm), Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin Gert, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince and Whitney.
To learn more about hurricanes or hurricane preparation, visit www.nws.noaa.gov or www.ready.gov/hurricane-toolkit.