Thursday, June 21, 2018
Public safety

Hurricane Irma: What non-evacuation zone residents should do to stay safe

Residents who live in a non-evacuation zone are grappling with a judgment call: Is my home safe enough for Hurricane Irma's wrath?

The zones that have been evacuated were evacuated because of concerns about water — in other words, the storm surge.

But wind is likely to affect people all over the county, particularly if Irma spins off tornadoes, as hurricanes often do.

"We evacuate from water, we hide from wind," said Assistant Pinellas County Administrator John Bennett.

Here are some answers from experts that can help you determine whether your home is safe enough to hide inside of, and what to do when the storm hits.

Find a shelter in your area

How do people in non-evacuation zones gauge whether it's safe enough to stay in their house?

There's no single test. The decision has to be made after considering various factors, including a home's construction and age.

Definitely consider the condition of windows, roofs and garage doors.

"Do you have impact resistant windows or shutters? Did you use plywood to board windows? Do you have a gabled roof? Those need to be properly braced in," said Josh Boatwright, Pinellas County government spokesman. "Old garage doors can be braced with retrofit kits, but new doors have to meet pretty stringent wind requirements."

Residents should be prepared to find a safe room in advance. If the power goes out and the wind starts howling like a train whistle, it's too late to start planning for a place to hide.

Where are the safest places to be in a house during a powerful hurricane?

You know you should head to the "safe room" when winds feel dangerous. It can be a closet or inside room, generally on the first floor.

According to county guidance, identify a room that has a solid-core door with heavy duty hinges. Use long screws to securely anchor hinges, and use a deadbolt lock if one is there.

• In a one-story house, choose a room in the center with few or no windows.

• In a two-story house, go to an interior room on the first floor, such as a bathroom, closet or space under the stairs.

• In a multiple-story building, head for interior rooms away from windows on the first or second floors. Interior stairwells and areas around elevators shafts are generally the strongest parts of a building.

Stay inside until you hear or see an official message that the hurricane is over, as the weather can calm if the eye of the storm passes before it turns severe again. Hold off on repairs until the storm passes.

"It's better to hide from the wind than if you have a breach of some kind and trying to deal with it in the moment," Boatwright said. "If you can't make it to a safe room, lying on the floor under a table might be your best bet."

What should people keep with them in their safe room?

In that room or closet, store a mattress or some other soft materials to provide cushioning and protection in case the house is breached by the storm. Also in there should be water, some food, and something to provide lighting like a good flashlight with fresh batteries (avoid candles).

"Make sure you have all that stuff at a place you can get to it," Boatwright said. "We don't know what impact the storm will have, but it's quite possible to imagine people might have to go without water or power for sometime, so be ready to be self-sufficient for a few days."

What else should people know during the storm?

Be prepared, not alarmed — especially if you have a family.

"We tell people with children try to stay calm for their sake and not panic," Boatwright said. Have a flashlight or lantern ready. Have a battery-powered radio ready."

Boatwright said the flooding impact of the storm is still unpredictable. People should be cautious even after the storm passes.

"It's important not to move around quickly in floodwaters, even if it appears to be shallow water," he said "It doesn't take much water for you to lose control of your car."

COMPLETE COVERAGE:Find all our coverage about Hurricane Irma here

Contact Divya Kumar at [email protected] Contact Craig Pittman [email protected]

Comments
Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

LARGO — Vanessa Rodriguez thought she found the right house for her three kids, in the right neighborhood, for the right rent. She signed the lease for April 30, sent a $2,300 money order and planned to move in June 1.Then the delays started. She sai...
Updated: 2 hours ago
15 arrested in Hillsborough construction fraud sting, one for the eighth time

15 arrested in Hillsborough construction fraud sting, one for the eighth time

TAMPA — The contractors arriving at the Brandon home thought they were meeting with a potential customer. They were wrong.In fact, the would-be clients were undercover detectives and the contractors, lacking a license to ply their trade, left the hom...
Published: 06/20/18
St. Pete police investigating social media threat against Pride event

St. Pete police investigating social media threat against Pride event

ST. PETERSBURG — Police are investigating a threat against St. Pete Pride weekend based on a social media comment left on a Tampa Bay Times story.A Facebook commenter used an alias to post the threat on a story about a pop-up gay club planned for the...
Published: 06/20/18
Driver in fatal Tampa hit-and-run turns himself in

Driver in fatal Tampa hit-and-run turns himself in

TAMPA — The driver who was sought in a fatal hit-and-run on Sunday night has turned himself in.Police say Roger Herelle, 33, told detectives Wednesday he was involved in the crash that killed Sally Ann McClellan Webb, 58.Police had had been seeking t...
Published: 06/20/18
Five guns taken in 30 reported break-ins of unlocked cars in Clearwater

Five guns taken in 30 reported break-ins of unlocked cars in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — Thieves have made off with at least five guns after breaking into unlocked vehicles in recent days, police said Wednesday morning.Over the past three days, a group of people have been breaking into unlocked vehicles across the city. Clea...
Published: 06/20/18
Police investigating body found floating near Davis Islands

Police investigating body found floating near Davis Islands

TAMPA — Police are working to recover a body that was found floating in the water near the Davis Island Sea Basin on Wednesday morning.It is uncertain how the body ended up there, according to police.This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com...
Published: 06/20/18
Pasco Sheriff: Hudson man faces sexual battery charges

Pasco Sheriff: Hudson man faces sexual battery charges

HUDSON — A 33-year-old man is facing charges of sexual battery and rape after Pasco County Sheriff’s deputies said he assaulted a 14-year-old girl.Christopher Hall, who was 31 at the time of the incident, forced the victim into a bathroom, took off h...
Published: 06/20/18
SB traffic on I-275 slowed in St. Petersburg after car jumps median

SB traffic on I-275 slowed in St. Petersburg after car jumps median

ST. PETERSBURG — A car that is straddling the center concrete barrier is causing a visual slowdown Wednesday morning on Interstate 275.The incident occurred sometime around 7:30 a.m.The passenger side of the car can be seen hanging along the median o...
Published: 06/20/18
New Port Richey man faces sexual battery charge

New Port Richey man faces sexual battery charge

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 33-year-old man was arrested Monday on a charge of sexual battery, accused of assaulting a 10-year-old girl.Jonathan Wells was booked into the Pasco County jail, where he was being held Tuesday without bail.The assault took place ...
Published: 06/19/18
St. Petersburg power outage affects thousands

St. Petersburg power outage affects thousands

More than 2,000 Duke Energy customers are without power after a cluster of storms rolled through earlier this afternoon, according to Duke Energy.The area without power stretches along 62nd Avenue N from 12th Street N to 30th Way N, according to the ...
Published: 06/19/18