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After a wet start to hurricane season with Tropical Storm Colin forming in the first weekend of June, we haven't seen much storm activity brewing off of Florida's coast. That early season storm was a good reminder of how quickly tropical weather can develop this time of year. On the first day of Hurricane Season, Wednesday, June 1, the forecast still looked fairly quiet. By the end of that weekend, we were ramping up for heavy rains and possible flooding.
For residents who don't already have a survival kit, perhaps you should consider Tropical Storm Colin as a warning sign. Now is the time to get out your checklist and see what your family would need if a hurricane was heading our way this weekend. The first thing most people think of in a hurricane is the immediate dangers from the storm surge and wind. When it comes to building a survival kit, though, you have to consider what life will be like in the days and weeks after a major storm. Imagine life without power, water or safe roads to take you to the grocery store. Think through what your family would need to get by for at least a week without these necessities.
Does all this preparation sound overwhelming? Actually, most of the things you need could fit in a plastic storage bin in your garage. You can check off the items you'll need in this newsletter or you can go to this link and print out the first section of our 2016 All Hazard Guide, which lays out 5 Steps you should take to prepare for any emergency. You may want to print out that list and take it with you to the store.When we go through long spells of hot, dry weather, it's easier to become complacent about preparing for a hurricane. Consider this: historically, September is the peak of tropical storm activity and the last time Pinellas County was directly hit by a hurricane it occurred in late October. Whatever weather patterns we've experienced so far this summer do not accurately predict what will happen through the remainder of the season.
Have you determined whether you can safely stay at home during a hurricane or if you'd have to evacuate to a friend's home, a shelter or another location? That decision will dictate how you pack for a possible storm. If you are staying with family or friends, be sure to consider what you can bring to contribute to their food and water requirements, and if you have a pet, don't forget pet food and supplies.
Use Pinellas County's Know Your Zone app to find out your evacuation zone in a storm. If you live in an evacuation zone or if your home would not be safe in a major storm, you should pack a Go Bag with the basic items you'd need in an evacuation. Find your zone. If your home is in a Level B, C, D or E evacuation zone, and it's not a mobile home, you need to be prepared with a 'staying at home survival kit' as well since your evacuation level may not be ordered to leave.
If you expect to stay in your home through a major storm, pack at least a one-week supply of fluids and non-perishable food that doesn't require cooking, such as dried fruit, canned tuna, peanut butter, etc. Also consider these necessities:
If you had to leave your home in a hurry, do you have backup copies of your personal documents? Are they stored in a safe place?
Did you know that restrictions on refills are suspended by state law when a hurricane warning is issued for your area, when the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center is activated or when the governor has declared a state of emergency?
As soon as you hear a hurricane is coming, get a refill!