1. Hurricane

Hurricane 2019: Get your documents and your data ready for a storm

As hurricane season begins, make an effort to implement a “set it and forget it” approach by preparing your physical and digital property ahead of time.
A vehicle and other items smashed against a home by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 12 in Mexico Beach. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times] [CHRIS URSO]
A vehicle and other items smashed against a home by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 12 in Mexico Beach. [CHRIS URSO | Times] [CHRIS URSO]
Published Jun. 3, 2019
Updated Aug. 29, 2019

Preparing your property, papers and photos for a hurricane should start long before an approaching storm’s so-called “cone of uncertainty” falls upon the Tampa Bay area.

Implement a “set it and forget it” approach to this storm season by preparing your property — your home, your business and your most important documents and photos — ahead of time.

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at

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

You may not have time to do all that as a storm approaches and handle other critical tasks, such as assembling food and water supplies. The following are some basic rules, and specific information that can be found online using resources such as the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes ( or the National Hurricane Survival Initiative (

Protect your home

Seal it: Make sure all of your windows and doors are tightly sealed to keep wind and water out. This will help keep your possessions safe. But if you’ve been taping your windows all this time, experts say, that’s not doing much to protect them. Skip this step in favor of installing heavy hurricane shutters or boarding up windows with plywood that is at least five-eighths of an inch thick. Google the best way to install plywood for your particular house. If you do lose a window, you’ll need more plywood and some tarps to keep it covered until it’s fixed.

Fix your roof: Got a leak? It’s going to get worse. If you’re having issues with your roof, have it inspected to ensure it will not let water into your home and that there are no serious structural issues before a storm arrives. If something goes wrong, you’re going to need even more plastic tarps on hand to keep the roof covered until it gets fixed.

Disarmament: Remove anything from your yard that strong wind gusts could turn into an airborne weapon. That includes lawn decorations, furniture, planters and anything that isn’t tied or bolted down.

Reinforcements: The most vulnerable part of your home might be the garage door, depending on how old it is. A garage door that fails during the storm will leave the house and roof far more vulnerable to wind and rain damage than a broken window. Kits and products for bracing and reinforcing garage doors are sold at home improvement stores.

Protect your business

All of the advice for your home goes for your business, too. Check the structure’s roof, board up windows, bring everything inside and make any necessary repairs.

Needs a trim: Cut away any branches from nearby trees that may impact your business’ office during a hurricane. That goes for any unhealthy or rotting trees, too.

Power down: Turn off utilities, such as electricity, before a storm hits to help prevent surges after power is restored. Don’t forget about large appliances, such as the break room fridge (clean it out before you turn the power off, too; in fact, just clean it out).

Information security: Crucial documents that have not been backed up on hard drives and the cloud should be placed in waterproof containers. If the building is in an endangered area, or you’ll need to access them right after a storm, consider moving them to a safer, more accessible location.

Road trip: Make sure you have the equipment, documents, information and passwords you may need to run the business remotely after a storm.

Protect your documents, photos

Make a checklist of all your important documents and photos and consider storing physical copies in another location.

One word, plastics: Store your important documents and photos in a waterproof container or bag to protect them from being ruined by rain or flooding. It could be a waterproof lockbox or just a binder with plastic sleeves.

Card game: Don’t forget to gather, organize and store important items such as your driver’s license, passport, insurance information, medical documents, financial records, checkbooks, birth certificates and Social Security cards. You’ll want to bring cash along, too, because ATMs and credit cards may not function after a storm.

Portability: If you have to evacuate, make sure to take physical and digital (or both) copies of important documents, photos and records that you cannot do without, just in case you’re cut off from home for a period of time.

Self-preservation: The same steps should be taken to protect irreplaceable family photos. But it’s 2019, are you on the cloud yet? Digital photos and scanned PDF of documents can be stored on hard drives and using cloud services such as Apple’s iCloud, DropBox, Google Drive, Microsoft’s OneDrive, or Amazon Cloud Drive. Some services offer free storage space, so why not save multiple copies of your stuff?

Contact Malena Carollo at or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.

2019 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at

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

Tampa Bay’s top cops fear for those who stay behind


  1. Sea rise is pushing inland and amplifying the threats from hurricanes, wiping out one of the rarest forests on the planet in the Florida Keys. [MATIAS J. OCNER  |]
    A recent study has found that the Gulf Coast has lost 57 square miles of forest over just more than a century.
  2. Flooding from an October king tide in Miami Shores fills streets, sidewalks and driveways at its peak. [Miami Herald]
    And it could lose up to 35 percent of its value by 2050, according to a new report.
  3. From left, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos speak at a summit held by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council's Resiliency Coalition on Tuesday at the Hilton Carillon Park in St. Petersburg. [LANGSTON TAYLOR]
    The first Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition Leadership Summit kicked off Tuesday. Local officials were there, and so was Florida’s new Chief Resilience Officer.
  4. The Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) aboard NOAA's GOES East captured this view of Hurricane Dorian overnight on Sept. 4, 2019. The GLM continually looks for lightning flashes in the Western Hemisphere, both on land and nearby ocean regions and can detect all three major lightning types: in-cloud, cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning. Alongside radar and other weather satellite data, lightning information helps forecasters understand when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more dangerous. [NOAA]
    The first space-based lightning tracker “has the most potential for forecasting rapid intensification.”
  5. Ridge Road in Pasco County currently ends at Moon Lake Road. The county wants to extend it 8 miles to link to the Suncoast Parkway and then to U.S. 41 in Land O' Lakes. [Tampa Bay Times]
    The federal government has finally blessed the long-awaited corridor. But environmental groups vow to keep fighting.
  6. Denis Phillips, chief meteorologist for ABC Action news (WFTS-Ch. 28 ), center, serves cookies to Griffin Frank, of Tampa, right, while hosting a fundraiser for the Children's Miracle Network with hot chocolate, popcorn, Doubletree Chocolate Chip cookies and even a few homemade Rule #7 Wine glasses, on Saturday, December 14, 2019, at his home in Palm Harbor. At left is Denis' wife, Robyn Phillips, and at right is his son, Josh Phillips, 16. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The Tampa Bay meteorologist loves Christmas. His neighborhood’s light display raises money for charity each year.
  7. Hurricane Dorian left homes in ruin in the Bahamas. [FERNANDO LLANO  |  AP]
    The season’s strongest storm, Hurricane Dorian, had Florida in sight but turned north before making landfall. The storm decimated the Bahamas.
  8. The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows the storm moving toward the northeast out to sea. [National Hurricane Center]
    An early morning advisory shows the storm turning toward the northeast.
  9. Tropical storm Sebastien has developed in the Atlantic and now has an 80 percent chance of turning into a tropical cyclone. [National Hurricane Center] [National Hurricane Center]
    Forecasters with the National Weather Service do not expect the storm to threaten land.
  10. Forecasters with the National Weather Service estimate that the system has a 50-percent chance of developing into a tropical or sub-tropical depression during the next 48 hours. [National Weather Service]
    Forecasters with the National Weather Service expect the system to develop into a depression by mid-week.