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City leaders say prepare now as hurricane season officially starts June 1

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Posted at 5:31 AM, Jun 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 23:24:52-04

TAMPA, Fla. — The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is officially underway, and emergency officials want residents to make sure they're prepared well before a storm hits.

STORM WATCH 2021: Click here to watch

Supply Kits

“It’s been 100 years since this area has been directly hit by a major hurricane," says NWS Tampa Bay Meteorologist-in-Charge Brian LaMarre.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. LaMarre explained it's not too late to get your hurricane kit ready, and he wants people to prepare now.

"Hopefully, we do not break our 100-year recognition coming up on August 25 later this year. That was the last time a major hurricane hit [this area]. About 10 to 15 feet of water inundated where we’re standing right now," said LaMarre. "Ten to 15 feet of water, and that was a Category 3. So again, imagine a Category 4 or 5 impacting Tampa Bay. It would be devastating.”

Having an up-to-date hurricane supply kit is one of the most important things to do before a storm, and you can never be too prepared.

Floridians are encouraged to have at least seven days of supplies but a basic kit should include the following.

RECOMMENDED: Researchers predict above-average 2021 Atlantic hurricane season

  • Water — enough for one gallon per person, per day for at least three days
  • Food — at least a three day supply of non-perishable food for you and your pets
  • Diapers, formula, bottles and wipes for your baby
  • A battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • A flashlight and extra batteries
  • A cellphone with chargers and a backup or external battery
  • A whistle to signal for help
  • A first aid kit
  • Garbage bags
  • Moist towelettes for personal sanitation

It's also helpful to have local maps, a manual can opener, enough prescription medicine to last a few days, matches, a sleeping bag, blankets, important family documents, local maps and a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

There are also steps you can take to prep your home now, too.

“Secure outdoor furniture, any loose items, trim your trees, and of course, let’s not use the trees as cover," said Tampa Fire Rescue Interim Fire Chief Barbara Tripp. "Have enough resources to survive for at least 72 hours without any assistance from anywhere.”

Duke Energy is preparing for hurricane season with "self-healing" technology. You can picture it how your car's GPS reroutes you through a traffic jam. In this case, if something like a tree falls on a line, the technology allows the lines to reroute electricity. Ana Gibbs, a Duke Energy spokesperson, explained the technology can help all year, even with afternoon thunderstorms.

“What that means for our customers is it basically reduces the number of customers that are impacted by an outage," said Gibbs.

Duke Energy says right now, nearly 45 percent of its customers in Florida receive the smart-thinking grid technology, with a goal to be at 80 percent by 2027. The company says in 2020, the self-healing technology helped to avoid nearly 290,000 extended outages in Florida, which saved its customers about 19 million minutes of service interruption.

“In most cases, it literally happens in a matter of seconds," said Gibbs. "In most cases, this technology happens faster than anybody ever knows that anything happens.”

ABC Action News asked Tampa Mayor Jane Castor if the city is well-prepared if a major storm were to hit. She said we are as prepared as we can be, but by prepared, she says that means not only government officials, but residents as well.

“Everyone needs to understand their level of responsibility in being prepared for a storm and ensuring that they keep themselves and their families safe," said Castor.

“We are getting ready we’re getting our kits together and all that especially our water,” said Christina Blakeslee.

She and her grandkids enjoyed the beach at Lido Key on the first day of hurricane season, like many other families.

“Today is the start of hurricane season and I should probably start doing more than I’m doing right now,” said Jessica McVay.

The City of Sarasota recently celebrated the completion of a beach renourishment project intended to help protect the shoreline from storms and erosion. It’s part of a 50-year partnership between them and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

“We needed a reliable thoughtful plan so we were ahead of the game instead of just being reactive after we had a storm event,” said city engineer Alex DavisShaw. “This is really the first step and we’ll be working in partnership with the Army Corps for the next 50 years being able to do periodic renourishment.”

The city said the project added nearly 700,000 cubic yards of recycled sand to about a mile and a half stretch of Lido Key, and extended the beach on average by about 300 feet. The project also included the construction of two groins along South Lido to help reduce erosion.

Last year, the city said the completed portion of the project at that time may have helped reduce how much water breached the shoreline during Tropical Storm Eta.

RECOMMENDED: Hillsborough County shares ways to be prepared this hurricane season

Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday

The 2021 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday started on Friday, May 28, and lasts through Sunday, June 6.

Some examples of tax-free items include flashlights and lanterns costing $40 or less; radios costing $50 or less; tarps costing $100 or less, coolers costing $60 or less, batteries costing $50 or less; and, generators costing $1,000 or less.

LIST: Everything you need to know about Florida's 2021 sales tax holidays

Pets

The first and most important thing to remember — never leave your pets behind if you evacuate. If it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for them.

Make sure your pets have collars and tags with the most up-to-date information. That should include their name, your phone number and any urgent medical needs the pet may have.

Create an emergency kit for your pets that includes three to seven days' worth of food, feeding dishes and water bowls, an extra collar or leash, disposable litter trays and garbage bags, any medication they take, a pet first aid kit and toys.

If for some reason you can't take your pet with you, have a plan in place. Call shelters or kennels in advance, or have a friend on stand-by who can look after them.

RECOMMENDED: Preparing your yard before a storm

Evacuation

Before you evacuate make sure you know a few things.

  • Know your evacuation zone
  • Pay attention to storm advisories, tune into the news so you know if you need to evacuate
  • Know where to go if you do have to evacuate
  • Have your hurricane and emergency kits ready
  • Make sure you have a full tank of gas
  • Plan to take one car per family to reduce traffic
  • Be familiar with alternate routes and means of transportation out of your area
  • Have cash handy because banks might be temporarily closed
  • Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather
  • Make sure it's safe to come back home before you return

Resources to bookmark

RECOMMENDED: Local energy companies using new technologies to prevent unnecessary power outages

Terms to know

  • Tropical Storm Watch
    • A Tropical Storm Watch is issued when Tropical Storm conditions, including winds of 39-73 mph, pose a POSSIBLE threat to a specified coastal area within 48 hours.
  • Tropical Storm Warning
    • A Tropical Storm Warning is issued when Tropical Storm conditions, including winds of 39-73 mph, are EXPECTED in a specified coastal area within 36 hours or less.
  • Hurricane Watch
    • A Hurricane Watch is issued when sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are POSSIBLE within the specified area of the Watch. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the Watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
  • Hurricane Warning
    • A Hurricane Warning is issued when sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are EXPECTED somewhere within the specified area of the Warning. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the Warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

  • Category 1
    • Sustained winds: 74-95 mph
    • Very dangerous winds will produce some damage
  • Category 2
    • Sustained winds: 96-110 mph
    • Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage
  • Category 3 (considered a major storm)
    • Sustained winds: 111-129 mph
    • Devastating damage will occur
  • Category 4 (considered a major storm)
    • Sustained winds: 130-156 mph
    • Catastrophic damage will occur
  • Category 5 (considered a major storm)
    • Sustained winds: 157 mph or higher
    • Catastrophic damage will occur