Pinellas County recently released its annual Hazard Guide, opening with the statement: “10-Year Calm…Don’t Be Fooled!” Those are truly words of wisdom. We all need to pay attention to the weather and take warnings seriously. It’s easy to fall into a false sense of comfort after a decade of mild hurricane seasons. But that could and will change. It’s always a best practice to be prepared.
This summer we will be bringing you a variety of safety tips to keep you and your family as safe as possible. Since hurricane season began the first of June, let’s focus on knowing what to do when severe weather warnings and potential hurricane threats are issued.
Weather Alert Actions:
Weather forecasters use computer models and will start issuing alerts as the “cone of action” moves our way. “Cones of action” are an area (shaped like a cone) that spread out from the hurricane showing areas that could be impacted if the hurricane continues on that course. The cone actions are broken down into a 5-day action, a 3-day action, hurricane watches, hurricane warnings and then recovery actions after the storm has passed. For this first part in our summer safety series, let’s deal with these actions published by Pinellas County.
During the “5-day Cone Action” period, it is important that you:
- Know your evacuation zone and review your disaster plan
- Get your survival kit and important papers ready
- Begin work to prepare your home and yard
- Know where to go if you need to evacuate
- If you or anyone in your family has special needs, be sure you are registered for a special needs shelter
When the forecasters announce we are in the “3-Day Cone Action” time frame, it’s time to:
- Double check your survival kit and purchase other items you need now
- Gather special supplies for small children, pets and seniors
- Have all materials and tools on hand and ready for shuttering your windows
- If you plan to evacuate, book reservations and pack your car
Next is the “Hurricane Watch” alert, usually given about 48 hours before the storm arrives. Remember that hurricanes can change course at will and these hurricane watch times may be reduced to as little as six hours. It’s during this time that you need to prepare, by:
- Filling up your vehicle with gas
- Gathering cash, important papers, and valuables
- Refilling medications
- Securing windows and yard furniture
Hurricane Warnings are next and mean that the storm is approaching and you now need to stay tuned to your local news and complete any evacuation plans. Note that if an evacuation order is issued, the roads will be congested. Don’t delay. Warnings usually will give you 24 hours notice. That may seem like a lot, but it will go by quickly.
All of the information above is not new and it’s popping up everywhere…and for good reason. Too many of us have become complacent and have a false sense of security. Remember 2004’s Hurricane Charley. Even though an evacuation order had been given for residents in many Gulf Coast areas, in reality only 50% actually heeded those directives and left. Had Hurricane Charley not veered to the east when it did, we could still be reeling from the loss of lives in our area. Pay attention, be prepared and know what action to take if this summer brings some heavy weather activity our way.
We plan a full summer of safety tips, from pools to water recreational vehicles to name a few. Stay tuned and let’s all have a safe and fun-filled summer!