Hurricanes are among nature’s most powerful and destructive storms. On average, 12 tropical storms, six of which become hurricanes, form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year.

Significant impacts are not only caused by major hurricanes so do not let the strength of it be the only factor when planning for the storm. Since 2010, Category 1 hurricanes have caused 175 direct deaths and over $100 billion in damage in the U.S.

The County Emergency Management stresses not to focus on the exact forecasted track and listen to local officials. For more information, go to weather.gov and click on the Tampa Bay area.

Hurricane names for Atlantic storms this year include Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Imelda, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van and Wendy.

Before The Storm

Daniel Noah is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service – Tampa Bay Area. He said, “Prepare for hurricane season now. Those who are prepared are less stressed when a hurricane approaches than those that wait until the last minute.”

It is recommended that you clean and fill bathtubs and sinks before a storm so you will have extra clean water. Turn refrigerator and freezer dials to the coldest settings and avoid opening the doors to help keep perishable food during a power outage. Refill prescriptions and maintain at least a two-week supply of medications during hurricane season. Store the lawn furniture, potted plants, bicycles, trash cans and other potential airborne missiles. Leave the swimming pool filled and super-chlorinated. Cover the filtration system. Protect your windows and glass doors with plywood or storm shutters. Brace double entry and garage doors at the top and bottom.

Never sweep or blow yard leaves, pine needles, grass clippings or soil into the street or stormwater system. This clogs up the stormwater pipes and prevents water from draining. If there is a chance flooding could threaten your home, move important items such as electronics, antiques and furniture off the floor. Fill your car’s gas tank and check its oil, fluids and tires. Gas pumps will not operate without electricity. Secure your boat early. Drawbridges will be closed to boat traffic after an evacuation order is issued. Get cash. Banks and ATMs will not operate during power outages. Few stores will be able to accept credit cards or personal checks.

Hurricane season is now upon us and it is important for you to make your plans today.

Have A Family Plan

Hillsborough County Emergency managers urge residents to prepare for the worst by having a plan before a hurricane or tropical storm strikes. Here are four steps to help with your planning:

Step 1: Put together a plan by discussing these four questions with your family, friends or household to start your emergency plan: shelter plan, evacuation route, a family/household communication plan and also how you will receive emergency alerts and warnings.

Step 2: Consider specific needs in your household. As you prepare your plan, tailor your plans and supplies to your specific daily living needs and responsibilities. Discuss your needs and responsibilities and how people in the network can assist each other with communication, care of children, business, pets or specific needs like the operation of durable medical equipment. Create your own personal network for specific areas where you need assistance.

Keep in mind the different ages of members within your household, responsibilities for assisting others, locations frequented, dietary needs, medical needs including prescriptions and equipment, disabilities or access and functional needs including devices and equipment, languages spoken, cultural and religious considerations, pets or service animals and households with school-aged children. All five storm surge fatalities in Hurricane Michael last year were over the age of 60 years. Have a plan to assist the elderly and others most vulnerable.

Step 3: Fill out a Family Emergency Plan. You can download and fill out a plan from www.fema.gov/medialibrary/assets/documents/133447 or use them as a guide to create your own.

Step 4: Practice your plan with your family/household. Visit www.ready.gov/make-a-plan for more information.

Your Neighbors May Need Help

People with disabilities, in poor health (either mentally or physically) or those who are without the support of family or friends should plan ahead for an emergency. They may need special assistance from family members, friends, neighbors or social service agencies. Please ask for help if you need it and volunteer to help those who do.

Older adults who are also caregivers may require outside assistance. Excessive stress and anxiety can contribute to increased episodes of illness, particularly for persons with heart disease and other illnesses. If an older adult lives in a nursing home, assisted living facility (ALF) or residential facility, the administrator should be contacted to learn about the disaster plan for that facility.

After The Storm

Dangers exist even as the storm passes and skies clear—downed power lines, carbon monoxide from generators and health complications from the cleanup.

Storms with extensive rain and high winds, such as tropical storms and hurricanes, can cause severe damage and create hazardous conditions such as fallen trees and other types of dangerous debris including downed power lines, broken glass, small pieces of buildings, commercial signs and road signs. After the storm passes, residents should be extremely careful as they sort through the wreckage to assess the damage.

Always be careful when entering a damaged building. If there is serious structural damage, contact local officials before entering. Report downed power lines or gas leaks. Keep electricity turned off if the building has been flooded.

Flooding And Road Safety

After The Storm Avoid standing water as it may contain fecal matter, bacteria and viruses. Do not drive through moving or standing water. Water as shallow as two ft. deep can disable most vehicles.

Nonfunctioning traffic signals should be treated as four-way stops. Avoid downed power lines; always assume they are live. Watch for workers repairing surfaces and follow all directional instructions and detour signs. Over half of the water-related fatalities during the 2016-18 hurricane seasons were vehicle-related.

You can sign up at HCFL Alert, www.HCFLgov.net, Hillsborough County’s official mass notification system which is designed to keep you informed about emergencies and certain non-emergency events. By registering, you will receive time-sensitive, important messages from the County.

Visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/residents/public-safety/emergency-management/find-evacuation-information to determine if you are in an evacuation zone.

For post-disaster assistance, call Emergency Management at 272-6900.