By Matt Wiley
With the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season having officially started on June 1, and with one named storm — Sub-Tropical Storm Beryl — already under our area’s belt, it’s important to be prepared for whatever this year’s unpredictable storm season throws at us. Whether it’s an unusual (because we’re so far inland) direct hit, or just some wind and rain, here is the 2012 New Tampa Neighborhood News Hurricane Preparedness Guide to help your family weather the storm(s).
This year, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting that there will be 9-15 named storms, of which between 4-8 are expected to become hurricanes and, of those, 1-3 could become major (above a Category 3) hurricanes before the season ends on November 30.
If a strong storm approaches and your home is not prepared with boarded-up windows or hurricane shutters — local emergency management officials warn that duct tape on the windows will not prevent debris from flying through them — a shelter is the best place to be. In New Tampa, there are five approved hurricane shelters: Lawton Chiles (photo on next page), Dr. Richard F. Pride and Hilda T. Turner elementary schools, Louis Benito Middle and Paul R. Wharton High.
If you ever have to evacuate to a shelter, be sure to bring pillows, blankets and sleeping bags. It also is a good idea to pack a few days worth of changes of clothes and personal hygiene items, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes and deodorant. For entertainment, be sure to bring books, playing cards or hand-held game systems/cell phones. Even board games that have been collecting dust in the closet can provide first-class entertainment, as well as a good distraction when sitting in a school gymnasium or auditorium during a hurricane.
However, if you decide to brave the storm in your home, there is no sense in not being prepared. Before deciding to “ride it out” at home, however, check to see if you live in an evacuation area or an area that is subject to severe wind or flooding, as many homes in New Tampa are built near ponds and even conservation areas that could flood during a hurricane or tropical storm.
Make A Storm Kit
First and foremost, bottled drinking water is absolutely the most important thing to have when gathering hurricane supplies. Local supermarkets, such as the Tampa Palms Publix, as well as wholesale stores — like BJ’s Wholesale Club on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. in Tampa Palms, and even home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot (both located on BBD, on either side of I-75), are almost always well-stocked with gallon jugs and large packs of bottled water.
The Hillsborough County Office of Emergency Management (HCOEM) recommends keeping a week’s worth of water — one gallon per person, per day — on hand.
A dedicated disaster kit is a great way to always be prepared for a storm. Most necessary supplies can be found at local supermarkets. Canned and dry foods are a must. Perishable foods will go bad quickly if the power goes out and they do not remain cold. Bags of chips, nuts, crackers, cereals or anything dry that will not go bad are all good ideas. If stocking up on any canned foods, don’t forget to add a manual can opener to your kit.
It also is important to have at least a two-week supply of prescription medications and a First-Aid kit on hand. Flashlights and batteries will come in handy if the power goes out, especially for a battery-powered storm radio that will keep you informed of any updates before, during and after the storm.
Coolers also can be a treasured commodity, especially for bags of ice, another one of the most demanded items following a storm. Being prepared before a shortage can put you ahead of the game.
It may sound…well, nasty…but it’s also a good idea to have a large bucket with a tight-sealing lid, along with some kitty litter, to serve as a makeshift toilet; it is not uncommon for plumbing to be out of service during a severe storm.
Other items to have on hand during a major storm include plenty of cash (banks and ATMs will not be in service if the power is out), and, if you can afford it, a gas generator (to be used outdoors only) can turn the lights on for as long as the gas supply lasts. It’s also good to have a few extra gas cans filled if a storm is approaching, not only for your generator, but also for your vehicle in case nearby gas stations run out of gas.
We’ve already seen one named storm this season — Beryl actually hit a few days before the official start of the season on June 1 — and, hopefully, it will be the only one. However, it is always a good idea to be prepared and to have a plan.
For more information about being prepared for a hurricane, please visit the National Hurricane Center’s website at NHC.NOAA.gov, or, you also can call the City of Tampa (282-7827) and Hillsborough County Emergency Management (236-3800) departments.
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