Extensive flooding in north Florida shows that now is the time to prepare for severe weather season

TAMPA, Fla. - The extensive flooding going on now in north Florida shows that severe weather season is here, and now is the time to prepare.

Within a matter of hours, mailboxes -- even cars -- disappeared in 2 feet of rain in the panhandle.

Emergency leaders in the Tampa Bay area said it can easily happen here.

"If you get 11 inches of rain, 21 inches of rain in a very short period of time, we're going to have some flooding," said Preston Cook, director of Hillsborough County Emergency Management. "People need to be thinking about what they can do to mitigate those efforts right now."

If recent history has taught us anything, it's that you don't need a hurricane or even a tropical storm to cause severe damage.

Tropical Storm Debby is a perfect example. Bands of rain kept lingering over the bay area, causing extensive flooding.

Back then, ABC Action News hopped in a paddle boat with Klaus Kieffer to check out the damage at his Pasco County mobile home park.

"Anything I put up high I can probably salvage. But who needs pillows?" he said pointing to pillows and blankets he placed on top of his laundry machine.

The lesson: Plan ahead.

Here are three things you can do right now before a storm hits:

1. Find out if you're in a flood or evacuation zone.

"You need to know that now. You need to know it today," Cook said.

2. Once you find the flood and evacuation zones, make a plan on what you're going to do and where you're going to go if evacuated.

3. Consider measures to keep your home high and dry.

"You're talking about consumer grade sand bags plus other flood barriers that you can use to protect your property," he said.

It may be another month before the ABC Action Weather team starts talking about cones of uncertainty, but Wednesday in Pensacola shows the damage can happen right now.

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