June 1 marks the start of Hurricane Season and after Brandon-area residents experienced Hurricane Irma last year, experts at Hillsborough County and the National Weather Service are offering tips on how to prepare before the tropical weather heats up.
Hillsborough County Emergency managers urge residents to prepare for the worst by having a plan before a hurricane or tropical storm strikes.
“Compile a plan that touches on all likely needs from acquiring sandbags to confirming where family members will go during an evacuation and how you will get there,” said Kara Walker, Hillsborough County Senior Media Relations Strategist. “Share your efforts with family members.”
Experts also suggest that residents sign up for HCFL Alert, Hillsborough County’s official mass notification system which is designed to keep residents and visitors informed about emergencies. This can be found at www.HCFLgov.net and will update in real time during an emergency. Another useful website provided by the county is the Hurricane Evacuation Assessment Tool (HEAT), which assists residents, visitors and businesses in determining if they are in one of the five evacuation zones. Site users can search evacuation information by owner name, address or parcel at www.maps.hillsboroughcounty.org/HEAT.
Both the county and the National Weather Service (NWS) recommend packing an evacuation kit including water, food, any necessary medication, personal hygiene items, important papers, changes of clothing and footwear, blankets or sleeping bags, a battery-powered radio and flashlight, a first-aid kit and cash.
“People with a hurricane plan and a safety kit are less stressed when a hurricane approaches than those without,” said NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Danial Noah, who suggests that residents visit http://ready.gov to get started.
Plans should also be made for family pets, especially if it is necessary to evacuate to a shelter.
“Make sure you bring necessary supplies for your pet, including a pet carrier, food, medications and proof of current rabies vaccination and registration tag,” said Walker.
It is also important to prepare property to lessen the effects of a storm. Hillsborough County suggests removing trees with rotting trunks, trimming limbs and shrubs and cleaning rain gutters and drain pipes, ensuring no obstacles block the flow of water before a storm threatens. It is also a good idea to move patio furniture and other lightweight, unsecured items indoors well in advance.
The Florida Small Business Development Center (FSBDC) at Hillsborough County offers no-cost, expert consultations to teach small business owners how to minimize losses and increase business survivability when affected by hurricanes and other disasters. For more information, visit www.hcflgov.net.
Walker also suggests that residents with special needs register in advance for Hillsborough County programs in place to help them prepare and find safe shelter and transportation in the event of an emergency. This information can also be found at www.hcflgov.net/staysafe.
According to Noah, half of hurricane fatalities in the U.S. were due to storm surge and a quarter of fatalities were due to flooding from heavy rain. Hurricane Irma produced widespread rainfall of 10 to 15 inches along and to the right of the the hurricane track and caused flooding of streets, rivers and low lying areas across the entire Florida peninsula.
“Water is heavy,” he said. “Moving water can be deadly. When roads are flooded, turn around, don’t drown.”
For more suggestions on hurricane preparedness from the NWS, visit www.weather.gov/wrn/hurricane-prepardness. To keep informed from Hillsborough County, follow social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter.