Hurricane 2019: If you get through the storm, don’t injure yourself after it

Tampa General Hospitalís chief of emergency medicine warns of the dangers after the storm. Cleaning-up can be dangerous, too.
Steve Miccio, 53, uses a chainsaw to cut part of a tree that fell on his home along Gulf Road in Tarpon Springs. The tree fell as Hurricane Irma swept through the Tampa Bay region in 2017. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
Steve Miccio, 53, uses a chainsaw to cut part of a tree that fell on his home along Gulf Road in Tarpon Springs. The tree fell as Hurricane Irma swept through the Tampa Bay region in 2017. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published June 6
Updated June 6

TAMPA — As hurricane season arrives, I’m glad so many experts are offering advice about how to stay safe during a storm.

But I’d like to warn people about another set of dangers that often gets overlooked. I’m talking about hazards that come after a hurricane or tropical storm.

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

In fact, based on my experience as chief of emergency medicine at Tampa General Hospital, I’d say the aftermath often has proved even more dangerous.

Dr. David Wein is the chief of emergency medicine at Tampa General Hospital. [TGH]
Dr. David Wein is the chief of emergency medicine at Tampa General Hospital. [TGH]

So my advice to Tampa Bay residents is this: Pay attention to the dangers that still exist after the winds die down and the bad weather passes. I can think of several examples:

The roof: Even in perfect weather, our emergency room physicians treat lots of people who have fallen off ladders and roofs. But it can be even worse after a storm. People start feeling desperate after a bad one, especially when waiting for repairs. This can lead to bad decisions and falls. So if you’re not skilled at roof work, don’t start now. It’s best to wait a few more days for a trained repair person.

Grills and generators: Cooking on a gas or charcoal grill seems like the perfect solution when power runs out, especially if you have meat that might go bad. But there’s a reason it’s called an outdoor grill. Charcoal and gas grills give off deadly carbon monoxide gas and should never be used inside. In fact, don’t even use them outdoors if you’re by an overhang that still might trap the gas. Grills should be in a clear space outdoors. Gas generators also give off carbon monoxide and should absolutely never be used inside. I’m sad to say, we have seen these poisonings at the hospital after storms.

HURRICANE MICHAEL: LESSONS LEARNED

911 calls from Hurricane Michael paint horrifying picture of what it’s like to not evacuate

What the Panhandle’s top emergency officials learned from Michael

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Tree trimmers and chainsaws: Anything that can slice through several inches of wood can do a lot of damage to your body in an accident. And accidents happen easily. The heavy branch you’re cutting falls on you while the chain saw is still running. The saw slices through small branches and cuts your leg. Using a chain saw is kind of like driving a car — you need to learn how to operate it safely. If you are not already skilled at this, wait until a professional can help you.

Of course, we all need to prepare for the possibility of a hurricane or tropical storm. This means storing plenty of food and water. It means keeping a couple weeks’ supply of medicine plus medical records. It means you should have a friend or relative who will put you up if you are in an evacuation zone. Or, if you have medical issues and can’t do without power or air conditioning, you may want to investigate special needs shelters. Of course, never go outside once a storm hits.

But based on my experience, please be thoughtful and careful about the dangers that stay with us after the wind and rain pass. Our emergency rooms will be open, but we hope you don’t have to come.

Dr. David Wein is the chief of emergency medicine at Tampa General Hospital, which is the region’s level 1 trauma center.


2019 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

PREPARE YOUR STUFF: Get your documents and your data ready for a storm

BUILD YOUR KIT: The stuff you’ll need to stay safe — and comfortable — for the storm

PROTECT YOUR PETS: Your pets can’t get ready for a storm. That’s your job

NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter


What Michael taught the Panhandle and Tampa Bay

What the Panhandle’s top emergency officials learned from Michael

‘We’re not going to give up.’ What a school superintendent learned from Michael.

What Tampa Bay school leaders fear most from a storm

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