By Matt Wiley

Hurricane Sandy spared Florida last season, but the superstorm wreaked havoc on the Northeastearn U.S. Experts are expecting 3-6 major storms this hurricane season. Photo: NOAA
Hurricane Sandy spared Florida last season, but the superstorm wreaked havoc on the Northeastearn U.S. Experts are expecting 3-6 major storms this hurricane season. Photo: NOAA

With the recent weather disaster in Oklahoma and Tropical Storm Andrea having already kicked off the season — on the day it opened (June 1), — the time to be prepared for the annual weather threat to our area, hurricane season, is now!

Following the 2012 season of 19 named storms, including Superstorm Sandy — one of the most bizarre and destructive Atlantic basin storms since Katrina in 2004 — NOAA (the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) predicts a 70-percent chance of 13-20 named storms during the 2013 season (which ends Nov. 30), with 7-11 potentially becoming hurricanes, of which 3-6 could be major storms of Category 3 (winds more than 111 mph) or greater.

“That’s a lot of activity,” says Dr. Gerry Bell, NOAA’s lead hurricane season forecaster. “The Atlantic is much warmer than average and we are in a climate pattern that has been increasingly producing more activity each season since 1995.”

The New Tampa & Wesley Chapel areas remained relatively unscathed last hurricane season, although the area did receive a substantial amount of rain from Tropical Storm Debby (more than 10 inches between June 23-27) as well as a few small tornadoes.

However, it only takes one storm to have a devastating effect on an area, and the first step to weathering the storm is preparation. Knowing whether or not your home lies in a known flood plain or is subject to severe wind is a must.

“People who have prepared fare so much better than those who have not,” Bell explains. “It’s easy to get ready now, which isn’t the case later when the stores are packed.”

 Gimme’ Shelter, New Tampa!

According to Hillsborough County Emergency Management (HCEM), this season, there will be six hurricane shelters in the New Tampa area, and it is important to know which one is closest to your community, especially if your home is not equipped with hurricane shutters and there isn’t enough time to board up windows when a storm kicks up quickly — which does happen fairly often.

Hillsborough County shelters are separated into two categories: lower intensity storm shelters and higher intensity storm shelters. In the event of a lower intensity storm, Bartels Middle School (9020 Imperial Oak Blvd., in front of the Live Oak community off Bruce B. Downs {BBD} Blvd.) will be the only shelter open in the New Tampa area.

However, in the event of a higher intensity storm, shelter can be sought at Lawton Chiles (16541 W. Tampa Palms Blvd.), Hilda T. Turner (9190 Imperial Oak Blvd., next to Bartels) and Pride (10310 Lion’s Den Dr.) elementary schools, as well as at Benito Middle School (10101 Cross Creek Blvd.) and Wharton High (20150 BBD). Always be sure to check to see if a shelter is open before going there.

 Stock Up Early

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends putting together a basic emergency supply kit. Most everything for the kit can be found at local grocery and home improvement stores, such as the three local Publix Supermarkets (City Plaza at Tampa Palms on Tampa Palms Blvd., Cross Creek Blvd. at Morris Bridge Rd. and in the New Tampa Center shopping center on BBD at Cross Creek Blvd.) or the Home Depot and Lowe’s BBD locations north and south of I-75, respectively.

FEMA recommends that the kit should include (but doesn’t have to be limited to) one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, a three-day supply of non-perishable food with a can opener, a battery-powered weather radio, flashlights with extra batteries, a First-Aid kit, dust masks, an emergency whistle, as well as moist towelettes, large and small garbage bags and plastic ties for sanitation and basic personal hygiene supplies.

Other recommended items include at least a two-week supply of prescription medicines and glasses, pet supplies (if necessary), family documents (proof of insurance, IDs, passports, bank records), cash, sleeping bags or blankets for each person and board games to keep kids busy. Remember, if the power goes out, it’s back to the Stone Age when the batteries for those high-tech electronics run out.

And, don’t forget a large cooler, which is perfect for stockpiling ice (at least for a little while) during a storm. If you have the means, a generator with a few gallons of gas, which also can come in handy for your vehicle, can power basic electronics if the power remains out for an extended period of time.

For more information about the 2013 hurricane season and preparations, please visit NHC.NOAA.Gov and FEMA’s Ready.Gov.


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