By: Laurel Nendza
Florida is known for beautiful white sand beaches, Disney World, and a laid back lifestyle. But unfortunately, Florida has a scary side that shows itself every couple of years. Hurricanes in Florida can create costly damage and threaten lives up and down the Sunshine State.
Many people chose to only stay in Florida during the cooler months when there is no chance of a hurricane forming in the Gulf. If you are new to Florida or have decided to brave the Summer months, you may be a little nervous about the possibility of experiencing one of these monstrous storms first hand.
Experts are calling for a slightly less active hurricane season than in recent years. They are predicting between 12-14 named storms, some which may become category 3 or higher. Hurricane season lasts from June 1st- Nov. 30th, but storms have formed outside of those time frames.
I have lived in Florida for over 16 years in and around The Villages. I have experienced some pretty intense hurricanes that left a lot of damage in their wakes. The most recent hurricane I went through was Irma. I've come up with a list based on my experience during these hurricanes to give you an idea of what what you can expect during peak hurricane season in The Villages:
- Expect news stations talking more about the tropical storm or hurricane that may be heading your way. The Weather Channel and local news will be upping the chatter about the possibility of a significant oncoming storm if there is one in the Gulf. There are several days, even weeks before it builds up to be a category 1 or higher, and they won't know the trajectory until it starts getting into open waters. Sometimes it may look like it is going to hit Florida, but the meteorologist will predict it to hit the Carolinas or Texas.
- Expect heavier traffic. If a major hurricane is slated to make landfall in Florida you will have several days beforehand to evacuate if you chose, expect heavy traffic on evacuation routes.
- Expect a mad dash to the gas pump. Whether you chose to stay or leave, make sure to fill up your gas tanks at the first rumor of a hurricane. In recent years there have been gas shortages even a couple of days before the storm hit and in some places several weeks after. Gas stations will be jam-packed and run out of fuel very quickly.
- Expect bottle water shortages. Get all essentials early such as non-perishable food, lots of water, toiletries, batteries, phone fuel rods and anything else you think you may need for a few days. Hurricane Irma created a bottled water shortage all over the state of Florida in 2017. Make sure to have plenty of ice and coolers on hand to save your refrigerated food and medicines. Fill extra water containers to flush toilets if it comes to it.
- Expect to find a place giving out sandbags. If a hurricane is due to hit and you are in a flood-prone area, make sure to get plenty of sandbags to place in front of your doors. Your local police and fire department will have the info of the nearest location to get sandbags. In many places, you will have to bring your bags and fill them yourself. Make sure you don't fill each bag too much, or they will be too heavy and cumbersome to handle.
- Expect to clean your yard of any potential projectile. Flags, garden gnomes, birdhouses, solar lights, and any other item that could fly away need to be picked up out of your yard and placed in your garage for safekeeping.
- Expect to check your insurance policy and take pictures, and video of your property and vehicle before the storm in case you occur damage and need to file a claim.
- Expect the power to go out and for it to get HOT in your house. During a hurricane, your doors will be blocked with sandbags, and you are not supposed to open windows. It will get hot in a hurry with no air circulation when the power goes out. Have plenty of battery-powered fans or have your generator ready.
- Expect your pets to freak out! Animals don't need a weather forecaster to tell them about an impending storm; they naturally know one is coming. You may experience some odd behavior from your animals before and during the storm. Take steps to calm them and make sure all pets are microchipped just in case they get out.
- Expect to be scared. During a hurricane the wind whips and blows and water hits hard. It can be very unnerving and create anxiety about what is going on outside. Keep up with the weather on the radio or your smartphone if you can. Also, do not go out during the storm because you could be hit by flying debris.
- Expect to be without your usual comforts for a few days. The day after Irma, I wanted a cup of coffee, but the power was out, and I had no way to power the coffee maker or even heating water for a cup of instant coffee. Take steps to make sure you don't forget about little things like this.
Lastly, expect your neighbors to show their best colors and lend a helping hand. In times of crisis, we often see the best of humanity in our friends and neighbors and even ourselves as we work together to put back our community after a powerful hurricane. In the end, the most important thing to remember is to be kind to each other and help in any way we can.