According to forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is expected for this year. The outlook predicts a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 30 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of it being a below-normal season.
The forecast also estimates a range of between 13 to 19 named storms of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70 percent confidence. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.
For us in the Tampa Bay area, 2019 was the fourth consecutive year with above-normal activity, and Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 monster, worried us for days before it turned north, sparing the west coast of Florida.
The state has been working with CDC, FEMA, and the American Red Cross to develop guidance for counties ahead of the 2020 Hurricane Season. This includes non-congregate sheltering plans, maintaining 6 feet social distancing between families, taking temperatures and screening individuals prior to entry, routine cleaning and disinfecting, and designated isolation areas in case an individual in the shelter becomes ill.
Hernando Emergency Management Director Cecilia Patella says, “Although every year we plan and prepare for the worst-case scenario, this hurricane season brings a new challenge in terms of COVID-19. While all of our preparedness recommendations for the public have remained largely the same, this year we are emphasizing the following as regards the coronavirus.”
Help to protect others in Hernando County from COVID-19.
Wear a mask when you are not able to maintain the recommended social distance. We are recommending residents pack face masks in their GO KITS so that they are prepared to wear one in the event they need to evacuate. Remember that the masks do not protect you but instead protect others from any illness you may have. Likewise, others wearing a mask, protects you from any illness they may have. So, if we all do our part, we actively protect each other.
Hernando County Evacuation and COVID-19
Allow plenty of time if evacuating to a shelter. Residents may be screened at the point of entry to each shelter, e.g. temperature checks, questions regarding possible exposure, travel history. We recommend allowing plenty of time and having patience as we implement this new process at each of our shelters this year. In addition, residents should closely monitor the media for information on shelter openings. Based on CDC social distance guidance, the county is likely to open additional shelters in order to allow a larger amount of space per resident.
The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1 and will last through Nov. 30, 2020. We may just have been lucky in 2019 but is the Florida Adventure Coast due for a big hit in 2020? We should all be making the necessary preparations now.
Helpful hints and tips
Start your preparations now. It is important to know your zone, know your home, know your nearest shelter and your evacuation route. Plan to be self-sufficient for at least 7 days: food, water, and medications are especially important. Visit https://www.hernandocounty.us/departments/departments-a-e/emergency-management
Hurricane Names image of 2020 hurricane names with the first three names crossed off)
Wonder why tropical storms and hurricanes are given names? During the 1950s, meteorologists realized that it was difficult to keep track of unnamed storms — particularly if one or more storms were happening at any given time. By 1953, meteorologists around the United States started using names for tropical storms and cyclones. In those days, the names were all female, but by the late 70s, both male and female names were being used for Atlantic storms. They are now maintained and updated through a strict procedure by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization.
Personal Preparedness image of the county’s Disaster Planning Guide
Emergency Management encourages everyone to make their own personal disaster plan. Taking a few simple steps today could save lives and prevent suffering later. Follow the tips and checklists in the county’s Disaster Planning Guide to protect your loved ones, your home and your business. (https://www.hernandocounty.us/departments/departments-a-e/emergency-management/make-your-plan) that includes sheltering-in-place and evacuation.
Pack a ‘grab and go’ bag image: typical bag
High on the early preparation list is to pack a ‘grab and go bag’ that you can grab as you evacuate and will help keep you safe and comfortable in the coming hours and days. Pack a separate bag for every member of your household, and keep them in an easily accessible place. An emergency preparedness kit needs to include food and water for each member of your family for three days, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, fully charged power packs for your cell phone, flashlight, spare batteries, first aid kit, can opener, local maps, moist towelettes, toilet paper, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation. At least 7 days of prescription and non-prescription medicine
Eyeglasses, dentures, hearing aids, changes of clothes, extra socks, supplies for babies (formula, diapers), nonperishable food and water, sleeping bag, blankets, pillow, flashlight and batteries, brush, comb, towel, washcloth, toothbrush, deodorant, soap, books, games, magazines, cards, toys and quiet electronics
If you evacuate to a shelter
Shelters are typically schools or community centers that provide a large hardened area inside a sturdy building. Shelters may be crowded, noisy and uncomfortable, with very little privacy. Shelter volunteers do their best to make you safe and secure. Staying with friends or family may be a more comfortable alternative. Make sure you know the nearest shelter to your location and remember that not every shelter takes pets. Do your homework in advance.
There are roughly 20 square feet of personal space per person. That is about 3.5 feet wide and 6 feet long
You will be asked to show identification when you arrive
Shelters are usually school gyms. Bring an inflatable mattress or mat, otherwise you will be sleeping or sitting on the floor
Cots are not provided
Eat before you arrive. Food may or may not be immediately available
Doors will close when winds reach sustained speeds of 40 mph
Shelters may lose electricity. Bring a hand fan or battery-operated fan, and a flashlight with batteries
If you are sheltering with your pet, you must go to a pet-friendly designated shelter. Remember to bring a crate, vaccination records, collar with name and contact number, food and water
Disaster Supply List image: pile of supplies and documents (from last year if I can find it)
You’re going to need supplies not just to get through the storm but for the unpleasant aftermath. The CDC recommends if you need to go to a public shelter, bring at least two cloth face masks for each person and, if possible, hand sanitizer.
Be sure to have at least three days supply of food and water on hand — plan for one gallon of water per person per day and food that won’t spoil. Keep a manual can opener and emergency tools handy including a fire extinguisher, battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of batteries. Banks and ATMs may not be open or available for extended periods, so keep a supply of cash available.
• House keys
• Water — at least one gallon per person per day for three to seven days, plus water for pets.
• Nonperishable Food — at least enough for three to seven days
• Radio — battery powered and NOAA weather radio with extra batteries.
• First Aid Kit — plus any prescription drugs.
• Special items — for babies and the elderly.
• Toiletries — hygiene items, moisture wipes, cloth face masks and sanitizer.
Important Documents image of waterproof box and docs
Remember to store important documents in a fire and waterproof container.
• Insurance papers
• Medical records
• Bank account numbers
• Social Security cards
• Deeds or mortgages
• Birth and marriage certificates
• Stocks and bonds
• Recent tax returns
Caring for your pets during a hurricane
IF YOU EVACUATE YOUR HOME, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND!
Pets cannot survive on their own; and if they do, it might not be possible to locate them when you return. Never leave a pet chained outdoors. If you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets; consider family or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency.
D.S. Parrott Middle School is a designated shelter that takes in pets. It is located at 19220 Youth Drive, Brooksville, FL 34601.
If you decide to stay at home
If you are staying home to ride out the storm, keep your pets inside before, during and after the storm and make them as comfortable as possible.
Keep your pet in an enclosed space or on a leash so that they feel safe and calm. The bathroom can be an ideal location for this. If you have to evacuate, knowing your pet’s favorite hiding spot is important so you can track down your scared and terrified pet quickly.
Have an adequate supply of food and water.
Make sure pets are wearing ID tags with your current contact information.
Consider getting a microchip, which can be registered for free at www.foundanimals.org.
When gathering what you will take with you in an evacuation, make sure to also get what your pets will need. This should include about 3 or 4 days worth of food, bottled water, a can opener if the food is canned, a sturdy carrier, leash or harness, and litter and litter box for cats.
Medicine, and medical records for your pet should all be placed in waterproof containers. Bring an extra leash and a picture of your pet in case you get separated in the storm. Tags and/or microchipping will also make it easier to locate a pet if he or she gets lost.
A portable pet emergency kit should include water, water bowls, pet food, medical records and medications.
Bring along a collar with identification, a favorite towel or blanket and a two-week supply of water and food.
Call hotels on your route to confirm they take pets.
Register with a pet-friendly shelter well in advance of the storm. Be prepared to show proof you live in a mandatory evacuation zone or mobile home in the county.
Going to a shelter can be very stressful for animals so remember to take some loved toys or blankets with familiar scents.
Recommended items for your pet survival kit include:
A crate or carrier large enough for the animal to stand and turn around in
Leashes and collars
Water and food
Emergency phone numbers for your vet, animal-friendly shelters and friends/relatives
Veterinary records with rabies certificate
Sanitation supplies. Your pet will not be able to go outside during the storm.
Take a photo of you and your pet together (to prove ownership), and one with the pet by itself, showing any distinguishing marks that will help with identification.
The official Hernando County Disaster Planning Guide and be found at https://www.hernandocounty.us/departments/departments-a-e/emergency-management/make-your-plan
FEMA continues to coordinate with state, local, tribal, and territorial officials, along with the private sector, to share operational guidance and to encourage hurricane planning that reflects public health guidelines. While many preparedness tools available to you are the same, certain actions may look different while COVID-19 remains a concern. FEMA has updated guidelines for preparing for hurricane season.