By Tamas Mondovics

Hurricane season may be over, but an organized and powerful squall line, which in some areas produced winds of 60-80 mph made its way across the southeast U.S. ahead of a cold front last month, causing a severe weather outbreak.

According to emergency management officials, on its way to the Tampa Bay region the storm produced hazardous conditions thanks to strong winds, lightning, hail and a few strong, long-track tornadoes left at least 20 people dead in three states, not to mention the high cost of property damage.

Interestingly, the weather event, which quickly reminded residents of the need to be prepared at all times, came just in time for the annual Severe Weather Awareness Week, January 23-27.

Hillsborough County has joined state emergency officials in promoting and calling attention to the importance of being prepared year-round.
“It’s easy to forget that we get our fair share of hazardous conditions year-round,” said Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Preston Cook.

Cook emphasized that while a great effort is put into promoting hurricane awareness, many end up focusing their preparedness efforts only on the hurricane season. “Other types of severe weather can be just as devastating,” he said.

To change such outlook County officials hope that promoting Severe Weather Awareness Week, which calls attention to potential hazards, how to prepare, and how to survive, will help widen residents’ weather outlook.

The lineup for the week included a few tips which are listed below:

Lightning – If you hear thunder, go indoors. Stay inside for at least 30 minutes after thunder stops. If you are outside in a storm, do not use trees for cover.

Marine Hazards and Rip Currents. – Before boating, check forecasts well ahead of time. Be sure everyone is wearing a life jacket, and have a VHF marine band radio on board. Never swim against a rip current. To escape the current, swim parallel to the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle toward the shore.

Tornadoes and Thunderstorms – Have a family emergency plan that includes where to go if a tornado threatens. During a tornado, go to an interior room without windows, and if possible, on the lowest floor of the building. Never stay in an automobile.

Hurricanes and Flooding – Have a family emergency kit, and a plan that includes where you will go if you evacuate. If a flood occurs, move to higher ground immediately. Stay away from flooded roads. Turn around; don’t drown.

Temperature Extremes and Wildfires – in hot weather, wear lightweight, light-colored clothing, and drink plenty of water. In cold weather, protect people, pets, plants, and pipes. When wildfire conditions exist, take steps to minimize potential damage to your home, such as removing pine needles and dry leaves within five ft. of the structure.

For more information, including the County’s Disaster Planning Guide, please visit

Hillsborough County’s official notification system for emergency messages and urgent information is HCFL Alert.

Residents are urged to sign up to receive messages by email, phone, and text, at, or call 272-6602.

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