Florida prepares for possible hurricane; governor declares state of emergency
Tropical Depression Nine is currently projected to impact Florida's west coast as a major hurricane by the middle of next week.
As Friday evening, Florida cities from Key West to Apalachicola are within the cone. Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for the 24 potentially affected counties on Friday. The governor cites the storm’s potential to escalate into a major hurricane in his declaration.
Though its exact trajectory may change between now and then, emergency managers and first responders are reminding residents to stay vigilant.
“Make a plan, know your risk and stay informed,” said Director of Emergency Management for Pinellas County Cathie Perkins.
Ahead of any storm impacts, Perkins reminds residents of all the conventional wisdom: have your hurricane kit stocked, secure your home, and have a plan ready to go whether you are sheltering at home or evacuating. You can look up your evacuation zone online, if you reside within one, or if your home resides within a flood zone. Perkins said even if you already know this information to double check, as evacuation zones can be updated year-to-year. Additional evacuations may be announced for low-lying areas if necessary.
Public Information Officer for Hillsborough County’s Fire Department Rob Herrin said one of the most important things people can do is stay informed and continue to monitor the situation. Most cities and counties have their own notification systems that will push out evacuation orders, closures, available resources and emergency alerts. To avoid missing critical information, make sure to find and sign up for your local alert system. It’s also beneficial to have a weather radio or battery powered radio available should your household lose power. Herrin also emphasizes that it’s important to make sure elderly, less technically savvy relatives and neighbors stay in the loop. Make sure you get loved ones signed up for alerts and check up on them often.
“Information like sandbag availability, water… that will all be pushed out through the alerts system,” said Herrin.
Those living outside of evacuation zones may be able to shelter in place, especially if their home was built after 2012, said Manatee County Deputy Director Steve Litschauer through an email statement. When sheltering at home, it’s important to secure doors, windows and garages to harden the structure against the storm. Make sure you have enough food, water and supplies to last you at least seven days should emergency services not be immediately available after a storm.
If you are ordered to evacuate, make sure you know where to evacuate to, what to bring and what to leave behind.
Though a press release, Public Information Officer for Monroe County Kristen Livengood outlined how to prepare to evacuate your home. It’s best to find a friend or family member to stay with outside of an evacuation zone, but shelters are also available in Monroe County up to a Category 2, and outside of the county for storms 3 or higher. Bring all outdoor furniture inside and secure potential projectiles like trashcans and other debris. Know how to shut off valves for gas, electricity and water. The release also advises to make a hurricane go-bag for each member of the family and pets. Make sure to include photos of family members and pets for identification purpose and important phone numbers.
As always, make sure to get your information from trustworthy sources. This includes the National Weather Service, the National Hurricane Center, and your local county emergency management.