Florida Hurricane Season
Preparation Guide

I moved to Florida from New Jersey in March of 1992. My first experience with a hurricane came by way of Andrew in August. Andrew was a Category 5 hurricane, the most powerful on the Saffir-Simpson scale. It made landfall in Florida on August 24, 1992, crossing the southern tip through Homestead. During the storm, I was living in the Tampa Bay area and watched the devastation on the local news. As a newcomer to Florida, I had no idea what I should have done to prepare for the storm if it had taken a different path and came to the Tampa Bay area.

If you're a northerner, like me, you are used to four seasons, Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. When you live in Florida, you learn that there are five seasons, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Hurricane Season.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. The worst part of the season is July through September. The storms form off the coast of Africa and travel across the Atlantic Ocean, along the path of warm water. In October and November, the storms form in the Gulf of Mexico, if they want to visit Texas, they don't have to go through Florida first, but due to the cold fronts coming down from the North, they get pushed thru Florida to go up the Eastern Seaboard to become Noreasters.

You need to prepare for the hurricane season before it starts, just like you had to prepare for Winter while you lived up north. If you wait until a storm is threatening, you will find short supply of many of the items listed below.

Before the season starts, take care of the following items (if the storm hits your area, you may be without power and water for several weeks):

1. Purchase a battery operated radio and extra batteries.

2. Purchase a hand operated can opener

3. Purchase candles and sterno, or butane stove and lantern, spare butane for the stove and charcoal for cooking. If you need to use the candles, please exercise caution, keeping them away from items that might start a fire.

4. Pick up a hurricane tracking chart

5. Study the evacuation routes found in the front of your local phone book. Determine which zone you live and work in to determine when you should evacuate. The zones run from A (the first to evacuate) to E (the last to evacuate). Also prepare an evacuation plan (where will you stay if the storm hits), if you need to leave the area, do not wait until the last minute. The storm track can change very rapidly (Charley changed course between the 11am advisory and a special 2pm advisory).

6. Purchase homeowner and flood insurance (do this before the hurricane season, if possible, insurance companies will not write policies if a storm is already on the way and there is a thirty day waiting period for flood insurance to take effect) Go to www.floodsmart.gov. for more information about flood insurance.

7. Prune trees of any dead or dying branches. Store any loose items from your yard inside (lawn furniture, potted plants, trash cans). Anything that is not secure can become an airborne missle traveling at 100+ mph.

8. Stock up on canned foods, such as soups, baked beans, stew and peanut butter and crackers.

9. Save empty milk jugs and water bottles for filling if a storm approaches. Fill a couple of empty milk jugs about 3/4 full of water and place in the freezer at the start of the season. If the power goes out, you can put them in the refrigerator to help keep food from spoiling. When they melt you don't have to worry about the water leaking out. Also, put sodas in coolers with ice, this will reduce the number of times the refrigerator has to be opened when the power is out.

10. Purchase plywood and cut to size to cover windows. (If a storm is approaching, you may not be able to find any, or you may have to spend valuable time waiting in long lines to purchase a limited quantity)

11. Fill your car with gas (if a storm is approaching many stations will have long lines or will be out of gas, so top off your tank when it get half empty)

12. Have as much cash on hand as possible (ATM's won't work if the power goes out and power may be out for several weeks)

13. Gather up important documents such as insurance policies, birth certificates, licenses and registrations and utility bills (you may need the bills to show police and government officials you were a resident of an area that was evacuated in order to return), and put them in a plastic bag and store in a location that you can quickly grab them to take with you if you have to evacuate.

14. Plan what you will do with your pets. Many shelters do not allow you to bring your pets, those that allow pets need proof of you pet's vacinations.

15. If you lose power and have a generator, make sure the generator is outside the house when you are using it. Carbon Monoxide gas can get into the house and kill you if the generator is operated in the house or garage (even with the door open)

Watch the weather forecasts for any tropical disturbances. The worst storms usually come off the west coast of Africa and develop strength as they cross the Atlantic Ocean, but any storm is dangerous. (Frances was only a Tropical Storm when it hit the Port Richey area, but half a million people were without power for several days and widespread flooding occured)

When a tropical disturbance has winds blowing in a counter-clockwise direction ranging in speeds of 39 to 73 miles per hour, it becomes a tropical storm and is given a name.

We have included the list of Atlantic hurricane names for the following years:

Names for 1999

Names for 2000

Names for 2001

Names for 2002

Names for 2003

Names for 2004

Names for 2005

Names for 2006

Names for 2007

Names for 2008 Names for 2009 Names for 2010
Names for 2011    

 

If you would like more information about how names are chosen, you can visit the National Hurricane Center of NOAA

If you are looking for historical information about a particular hurricane, go to The National Hurricane Center Archives for details on storm's track and total damages.

The Saffir-Simpson Scale categories tropical storms and hurricanes based on their wind speeds to determine the extent of damage that may be caused by the storm.

You should also become familiar with these weather terms

If you want to use your computer to track and forecast the path of hurricanes, here is a site where you can get the software needed: PC Weather Products

For more information of ways to prepare for hurricanes, check out FEMA , National Weather Service or The Weather Channel

If you need assistance after the storm dealing with insurance, you can call 1-800-22-STORM to get help from the Florida Department of Insurance.

I hope newcomers have found this page helpful. If you have any advise to offer, please drop us a line and we'll include it for our readers.

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