So you are on vacation and a hurricane is coming...or you are going to the Atlantic during hurricane season and want to know what to do. First and foremost don't panic...and listen to the authorities. The cone of uncertainty is big so it may not hit you....
I’ve lived off the Atlantic Ocean for 20 years now and during that time have lived through quite a few hurricanes (I was also on a cruise ship in the Atlantic during Hurricane Andrew which is one of the worse storms in US history - horrible situation). Luckily the Tampa Bay area is not a prime location for hurricanes since to get us the storms would have to head up the Atlantic and make a sharp right.
However, Sarasota has been hit in the past few decades and both Tampa and Sarasota are put on alert every year and there is nothing to say that we won't get hit this hurricane season.
The smart locals here have a hurricane kit ready before hurricane season is here and recheck and purchase any supplies that are low at least 3 days before the hurricane is scheduled to hit. Hurricanes are not something to play around with. Be aware and be safe. When a hurricane hits help comes from out of town and it takes time to organize it and get them here. The authorities will also be totally overwhelmed so you cannot rely on them. You need to have everything you need to survive without any assistance, water or electricity for a MINIMUM of 72 hours (I plan for a week)! It is up to you to be self sufficient.
Officially the Atlantic Hurricane season is June 1 to November 30th. However, the most probable time for hurricanes is from mid September to mid October (think September 11 to October 11).
There are 6 main dangers in a hurricane: (1) the hurricane force winds themselves, (2) the storm surge which is the hurricane pushing the water from the ocean inland, (3) flying debris, (4) flooding from the rain, and (5) tornadoes that spin off and (6) traffic and panicked drivers. All 6 of these are very real dangers that you need to plan for.
My Advice if there is a storm in the Gulf of Mexico
+ Be aware of the storm and the “cone of uncertainty”. When there is a storm in the Gulf check in at least every 8 hours. In 8 hours the category (how dangerous the storm is) and the hit zone can change dramatically. I personally set up alerts on my phone and Facebook so it is easier to check and I get an alert if anything changes.
+ Get supplies on the hurricane checklist early (see below for a list of what to have at hand) - have these supplies a MINIMUM of 72 hours before the storm hits. I keep my supplies on hand all hurricane season and then double check and get anything that is low at least 72 hours ahead. Stores will run out of supplies and those who wait are putting themselves and their family in danger! I have posted the link from FEMA below for a more complete list.
The most important things are lots of water (a minimum of a gallon of bottled water per person for 3 a minimum of days), a full tank of gas, food that does not need to be heated or refrigerated (remember the can opener) for you/your pets and children, cash (ATMs don’t work when there is no electricity) and medications. Even if you are here on vacation buying this stuff its not expensive and you can use it during your trip even if all ends up being OK. You may also want to get a flashlight and batteries and a battery operated radio.
If you live in Florida just have this stuff on hand at all times. You will also want a more complete list of supplies which can be found at: http://www.ready.gov/basic-disaster-supplies-kit
+ Know the hurricane evacuation zone you are in (if you are on the beach you will be in evacuation zone 1, the first one), the storm category rating, and the cone of uncertainty. Use this information to decide on your action plan. Do it early and follow it.
+ If you need to evacuate LEAVE EARLY – I cannot stress this enough. You do NOT want to be on the road when everyone else is evacuating since a 60 mile drive can take you 3 to 8 hours at this time. When you evacuate be sure to bring your hurricane supplies and have a full tank of gas before starting out. Stories of people being caught in a car on the highway in 100+ mile an hour wind are common and when the reach an "safe" area all the shelters and hotels were full (this happened to my family early on they went to bed and the hurricane was a category 2 not headed their way and the next morning it was predicted to be a 4 heading straight towards them and they had a last minute mandatory evacuation). Don't let it happen to you.
My Hurricane Plan as a Tampa Local with 20 years of experience living in a hurricane zone - I thought this may be helpful to tourists ...note that people who have been in Florida for a long time have gone through this so many times and some of us tend to get lazy about security and this is not necessary a good thing. Your first point of reference should be what the authorities are telling you.
Category 1 storm –
This is what I would tell tourists to do and go out and purchase: a full tank of gas, charge up everything (PC, phones, extra batteries etc), a minimum of 3 gallons of water per day per person, 3 days worth of foods that you don't need to heat or refrigerate, and figure the safest place to be where you are (a room with no windows and water pipes for extra protection..bathrooms are often great..tornadoes can be more dangerous than the hurricane especially if you are inland).
Everyone in a hurricane prone area should have the entire list of supplies on hand for the entire hurricane season. this can be found at http://www.ready.gov/basic-disaster-supplies-kit
I also have bleach and cleaning supplies on hand in case I need to clean up mud etc from the house or purify water. I remove everything from patios and yard (it can fly around and do damage to myself and others), and I know the safest place/room to be where you are (an interior room with no windows..this is often a bathroom or closet..remember tornadoes can be more dangerous than the hurricane especially if you are inland).
Have supplies and plan to be self sufficient and stay in your house for an entire week. After a storm roads may be flooded, electricity may be out and water water pressure could be bad or not safe to drink.
I also do chores around the house especially those that need water. I do laundry and wash any dirty dishes this way if I have enough clean dishes and laundry to last me for awhile. I take out the garbage. I clean my safe room (who wants to be stuck in a dirty bathroom or closet for a day). I also clean the bath tub. If your tub is clean it is easy to fill for emergency water if conditions suddenly get worse. This way you have water for washing dishes, flushing toilets and drinking if necessary. These things are also things that need to be done regularly so just do them now and give yourself piece of mind.
Category 2 storm for a direct hit – Follow #1 plus board up the house if possible. Since I am in the first evacuation zone (A) I consider staying with a friend in a more secure location (within the Tampa Bay area). Note the storm surge (the flood) that happens with the storm is often more dangerous than the winds! Make sure friends and family know where I am Facebook and twitter are good for this. My family also has an emergency person. I call my parents and the rest of the family can call them and get updates.
Category 3 storm – Follow instructions given #1 and #2 and go to an alternate location. Consider flying out of Tampa or staying with friends out of town. At the very least move to evacuation zone C. Remember to bring hurricane supplies with you.
Category 4 or 5 – Follow instructions given1 & 2. Board up the house and leave town…for me this will most likely be via plane. At this point the roads throughout Florida are probably gridlocked unless you were smart and left real early. Call the airport; find a flight up north or west (Vegas, Philly, Toronto etc) and go. Make a vacation out of it. Note you CANNOT do this at the last minute! Airports close early due to winds and rain and flights get booked.
Finding out more information
Most news agencies get their information from here and I’ve found that this is the best resource for information
The best TV news channel in this area varies by cable provider but I would recommend starting with Channel 9 and searching from there.
Florida divided into various evacuation zones. These zones are based on the how close you are to the water and the risk of flooding which is a main concern (and cause of death) during hurricanes. The state/county may order mandatory evacuations based on these flood zones. Zone A is evacuated first, then B, then c. To find yours go to:
The Red Cross will open shelters for those who have no place to go. The Red Cross does an amazing job at manning and organizing these shelters but they are often in school gymnasiums and are crowded and noisy. My recommendation is to plan early, find a friend or a hotel in a safe area before using shelters. I would bring everything on your hurricane list plus an overnight bag with extra clothes and toiletries, sleeping bag or air mattress, blankets, pillows, shower shoes, comfortable clothing to sleep in (unless you want to be running around a gym full of people in your PJs), eye masks, ear plugs and games to pass the time. Remember the city will close roads and hard hit areas so you may be at the shelter awhile after the hurricane has left.
See the local news for shelter openings and additional instructions on what to bring. NOTE very few if any shelters allow animals so if you have pets you will need to make alternate arrangements for them.
for the most part st. petersburg is a very safe place to visit for the tourist. there are some high crime areas that you should avoid. search st. petersburg on the attached web site for area crime statistics.
If you were to be drunk and passed out on the beach at 2am and if I couldn't wake you, and I left you there (because you had your keys and cell in your pockets) and two cops woke you up, you won't be in too much trouble, but you will have to leave the beach. The cops would even escort you to my room and say, "THIS YOURS?!?!?!"
I'm just guessing... Not that I'd know this as fact or nuthin'... Ahem...
Folks: Don't pass out on the beach in St Pete at 2am!
Well, it could become addictive... I would personally like to see this more often... And you? As addictions go, I think this may be one that would not be considered especially hazardous to your health! It may even prolong it! :-)
Beware of Mr. Alligator! Chomp! Chomp!
These creatures are one of the oldest known animals on earth and though interesting to see, may not be so interesting to meet in a personal and "up close" confrontation!
Please know that they are animals in their own environment and were here before us and they still resist a vegetarian diet which means you look "delicious" to them... carnivores as they are! Be warned and be aware!
Beware of Lightning!
Thunderstorms are a normal part of life in the Southern Unites States due mainly to the humid temperatures and the availability of massive amounts of water from which the storms amass their strength. Every year, lightning strikes many people resulting in deaths and devastating injuries and create wildfires across the country.
Some safety tips are: Do not seek shelter underneath trees or metal enclosures. If golfing, do not continue to play but seek shelter... metal shafts can act as lightning rods! Do not swim in pools or the ocean! Most storms are fast moving and will likely move quickly through the area so be patient and you will likely continue to enjoy your day momentarily.
As with every Summer in Florida, We have aftermppn Thunderstorms and rain showers, Usually they dont happen till around 4 pm some times earlier some times later, They cause local street Flooding and are usually over in under 1 hour, but they do happen almost 4 out of every 7 days, , so be prepared to take shelter if lightning is getting close to you .
The constant sound of sirens at night is a reminder that the beautiful scenery is not all that awaits you in St. Petersburg. Be extra careful when shopping or strolling in the downtown area. The usual warnings would apply even in the nicer areas - don't walk alone at night and just take the normal precautions. We have never had any problems, but there is crime in St. Pete, like every city.
This expression I took from Don2000 .
'It is a city of retired people and there are a great number of them to watch out for. They seem to think they will live forever and are sometimes a little careless in their driving and walking habits, J-walking can be bad for their health, but all in all, things are much slower and more relaxed there.'
there is a season for stingrays in the water, ouch when you step on them, there's a way to wade through the water to avoid being stung...check when you get there is it's ray season. Also, bring bug spray if you go out in early morning or evening.
It is a city of retired people and there are a great number of them to watch out for. They seem to think they will live forever and are sometimes a little careless in their driving and walking habits, J-walking can be bad for their health, but all in all, things are much slower and more relaxed there.
Watch out for alligators. They really are everywhere! On the highway, in backyards of homes, in lakes, and especially in this swamp we are kayaking in!
There are 30,000 lakes in Florida. I was told many times that every lake has an alligator – or every alligator has a like:-).