In order to know when to evacuate for hurricane surge flooding, you must KNOW YOUR ZONE! Enter your address and you will be provided not only information on your evacuation zone, but also the closest shelter, the closest special needs shelter, and the closest hotel accommodation.
Find your Evacuation Zone
There are many ways to know your zone.
The Ready Pinellas App:
For checklists, preparedness assistance, and
information, download the new mobile app at the
Apple App Store and Google Play.
- Check out Pinellas County’s
Evacuation Level / Zone Lookup. Storm surge levels have changed. Your evacuation zone may be impacted. Check your zone. Enter your address and you will be provided not only information on your evacuation zone, but also the closest shelter, the closest special needs shelter, and the closest hotel accommodation.
- Call the Pinellas County Interactive Hurricane Evacuation Inquiry Line at (727) 453-3150 and key in your home phone number without the area code to hear your home’s evacuation zone.
- Call Pinellas County Emergency Management at (727) 464-3800 for help looking up your home’s evacuation zone. Regular business hours are from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- Find it on your latest Pinellas
County Utilities bill.
- Find it on the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s property detail page for your home or business (search your address at the top of the Property Appraiser website).
- To learn more, go to the Evacuation Level FAQ page.
All residents living in mobile homes/manufactured homes must evacuate, even if their homes are
located in a non-evacuation area.
Storm Surge Flooding Kills
The greatest killer of people during hurricanes is storm surge – the dome of water pushed ashore by powerful hurricane winds. Storm surge isn’t a gradual rising of water. It rushes in and out sweeping anything not secured back out to sea, people included. During Hurricane Katrina, residents of coastal Mississippi were caught off guard by storm surge flood waters. Entire buildings were moved and the loss of life was staggering. Pinellas County is extremely vulnerable to surge flooding because of its coastal and low-lying geography.
In fact, a Category 3 storm could flood 42 percent of the county’s households.
Staying safe from surge flooding is easy.
- If a hurricane is predicted for Pinellas County and you live in a zone that has been ordered to evacuate, get out.
- Do not stay in an area at risk for surge flooding.
- Do not plan to escape to higher floors and do not wait until the last minute. Leave for higher ground and survive the storm.
- Hurricane Katrina Historic Storm Surge Video
(Pinellas County Government is in no way endorsing or sponsoring any commercial products, services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation by providing the link to the above website. The link is provided solely for the information and convenience to the website visitors, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the Office of Emergency Management or Pinellas County Government.)
- Storm Surge Protector Application - Pinellas County Emergency Management’s online tool for viewing potential storm surge levels for Pinellas County properties.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
When it comes to evacuating, there are many decisions to make. One of those decisions is whether to stay in Pinellas County or drive hundreds of miles to an out-of-town location.
Finding high ground in Pinellas County is possible. The green areas on the map to the right are high enough to not be impacted by surge flooding from any hurricane. Even for a Category 5 storm, a structure in these areas that is hardened to withstand high winds can provide safe shelter.
Evacuating to a shelter within the county has its advantages. You can avoid traffic jams and the uncertainty that comes with driving the crowded highways as other counties evacuate along with Pinellas. You can avoid going elsewhere in the state only to find that the storm has shifted and you are now in harm’s way. And you will avoid the crowds when it comes time to head home.
If staying in Pinellas seems like a good decision, plan ahead to find safe shelter by asking friends, relatives or coworkers if they are willing to become a host home to you and your family during a storm or find a hotel or motel in the area in a non-evacuation zone.
How Do Flood Zones and Evacuation Zones Differ
Flood zones and evacuation zones are different. They measure different conditions that may not occur at the same time.
Flood zones are areas mapped by FEMA for use in the National Flood Insurance Program. Each flood zone designation, represented by a letter or letters, tells homeowners exactly what the risk is for flooding at their property over a period of years, regardless of the cause. By law, all homes in high-risk zones carrying a mortgage must be covered by flood insurance.
Evacuation zones, on the other hand, are based on hurricane storm surge zones determined by the National Hurricane Center using ground elevation and the area’s vulnerability to storm surge from a hurricane. The evacuation zones are marked from A through E, plus non-evacuation zones.
The flood zones and evacuation zones are determined by different methods and have different purposes. A home may be located in a non-evacuation zone, yet still be located in a flood zone because of a nearby stream or pond.
Residents must check both zones.
An important thing to remember is that flood losses are not covered by homeowners insurance policies. The National Flood Insurance Program makes federally backed flood insurance available to residents and business owners. Any flooding damage covered under the policy – whether or not a federal disaster declaration is made – will be reimbursed per the policy limits, which can include structural damage or the loss of contents.
For more information on flood zones, visit our flooding website.
Mandatory and Recommended Evacuations
Should a hurricane threaten the Tampa Bay area, an evacuation order may be issued. What exactly does that mean?
An evacuation order is given to get people away from the deadliest part of a hurricane – storm surge. Evacuation levels are based on elevation above ground that could be inundated by the surge driven ashore during a storm. There is one notable exception to this: all mobile homes, regardless of their elevation, must be evacuated. They are vulnerable to the high winds of a hurricane and flying debris.
There are two types of evacuations that can be ordered. The first is a recommended evacuation. In the event of the approach of a tropical storm or a hurricane crossing the state and exiting over Pinellas, the potential for storm surge may not be as great. In these cases, emergency managers may recommend that residents in mobile homes and historically flood-prone areas that frequently flood consider evacuating to higher ground and/or sturdier structures than they have available at home. This is done for the safety of those in areas known to be vulnerable.
The second type is a mandatory evacuation. Mandatory evacuations are issued when the probability of storm surge is high, and loss of life could occur if residents don’t leave. These evacuations will be ordered up to a certain letter zone and will always include mobile homes. It is incredibly important that if your home is in an evacuation level, you know your level, plan for a ‘stay’ and ‘go’ option and, if your level is ordered to go, move quickly but safely outside of the evacuation area.
It is illegal to stay in a home under a mandatory evacuation order. Under Florida Statute 252.38, the local authority has the ability to take necessary steps to provide for the health and safety of people and property. Chapter 252.50 sets refusal to follow an evacuation order as a second-degree misdemeanor.
Does this mean the police will drag you out of your property? No. They will be too busy helping those who will be following the evacuation order, although they will likely ask for next of kin or an emergency contact. However, this does provide law enforcement the basis to remove anyone who is impeding the flow of an evacuation.
Remember, emergency managers are counting on you to be prepared and do the right thing to keep yourself and your family out of dangerous situations. Please know your evacuation zone and have a plan for where you will go should something happen this hurricane season.