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How to prepare for a hurricane

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — If you live in an area affected by tropical activity, you probably know the basics of hurricane preparedness.

But Florida has experienced a major population boom in recent years, and some Floridans may experience their first hurricane season this year. With a potential hurricane heading towards Florida next week, many may be wondering how exactly to prepare for tropical weather.

If you haven’t already downloaded or reviewed the 2022 Max Defender 8 Hurricane Guide, you can find it online here. It has a lot of great information including emergency numbers, how to develop a plan for your family and home, and how to find the nearest evacuation shelter.

In addition to those basics, here are some of WFLA meteorologist Rebecca Barry’s top tips and tricks on an ever-evolving list of hurricane hacks that should help make each season easier:

Should I stay or should I go?

Evacuation zones changed a few years ago – have you checked your zone since then?

The rule is to run from water, shelter from wind. In other words, you should evacuate if there is a risk of flooding where you live. Evacuation zones are based on the flood slope for that area.

If your zone is activated as a zone that should be evacuated, you are at risk of being inundated by storm surges, which are the most damaging and deadly element of hurricanes.

Unless you live in an evacuation zone, it means your area is not expected to experience a storm surge and you should plan to shelter from the wind in your home. Evacuations are then not necessary for you – however, exceptions are prefabricated houses and caravans if you are medically dependent on electricity or if you have large branches over your house that could fall over during the storm.

If you live in an area that needs to be evacuated, remember you don’t have to leave the city. You can weather the storm with a friend or family member who doesn’t live in an evacuation zone, or go to emergency shelter.

Hack Hurricane Shelter

Hurricane shelters are designed to protect your life efficiently – it’s not a luxury hotel. You will feel more comfortable if you bring your own linens.

My favorite trick, which has evolved from sleeping on a camp bed at work during a storm, is to bring earplugs and a sleep mask. You will most likely sleep on a crib in a larger room while other people do the same. But with earplugs and a sleep mask you sleep like in a 5* hotel!

Before you leave the house

The day before your scheduled departure, place a small paper cup of water in your freezer. Just before you leave, put a quarter on top of the now frozen cup of water.

So when you return, you’ll know if the food in your freezer is safe. If the cup you return looks the same as it did when you left – with the quarter on top of the frozen cup of water – your meal is good. You either didn’t lose power or didn’t lose power long enough for your food to thaw.

If you come back and the neighborhood is just in the water – throw everything out of your freezer. Or if the quarter is now refrozen and dunked in the mug, you still have to throw away your food because you’ve lost power long enough for your freezer to thaw.

Ok I’ll stay… what else do I need?

Suppose you don’t have to evacuate and stay at home. You’ve got the basics: flashlights, batteries, food supplies, etc. What else do you need?

When was the last time you filled your bathtub? Does it still hold water? If not, you need a tub stopper. Because of this, they are a big seller before storms.

Another question – are you on your own private well? If that’s the case, you’ll need to fill up your tub so you can use the water to flush your toilet once the power goes out. If you use city water/sewage services, you most likely do NOT need to fill your tub. Even if the power goes out, chances are you still have running water.

Speaking of water, you do NOT have to drink bottled water exclusively if you lose power. Everyone rushes out to buy water before a storm, but you can save money and the frustration of empty shelves by filling jugs and bottles with drinking tap water before a storm.

Here’s another hurricane hack that came in handy during Irma: Days before the storm hits, start filling gallon plastic freezer bags with water. Lay them one at a time flat in your freezer and let them freeze. Laying them flat will freeze them in a stackable form. Fill all available space in your freezer with frozen water bags. The ice will keep your freezer frozen longer when the power goes out. You can also put a few in your fridge to keep your food there longer. Once the bags of frozen water melt, boom! You have more fresh water that is safe to drink.

Another thing to consider is what’s your propane or charcoal content? Once the power goes out, you need a way to prepare food. If you stock up on propane or charcoal well in advance of the storm, you’ll beat the crowds and rush for supplies.

And here’s a hurricane hack for those who need their caffeine: A camping-style percolator coffee maker means you don’t have to skip your morning coffee when the power goes out. If that’s too much for you, the high-end brands of instant coffee are far from the last you tried instant coffee – in a good way.

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