1. Hurricane

Hurricane 2019: The gear you need to stay safe — and comfortable — for the storm

What do you need besides batteries and water? We asked around for you.
A basic hurricane kit from Bill Jackson's sporting goods in Pinellas Park. Items in photo include: Large tote carrier or ice chest, center, portable camping stove with cooking set and utensils, center, Portable fresh water container, front left, batteries, multiple sizes, front left, Insect Repellent, bottom center, flashlight, bottom, center, battery-operated lantern, front, right, solar powered charger/charges electronic items using small solar panels, bottom right, freeze-dried food kit, various foods, center left, rain poncho, center right, sleeping bag, center right, pillow, back left, portable fan that charges electronic items, back right, water purification unit and water bottle/mister, water purification tablets and waterproof matches/Lighter, top of cooler, left, battery operated/chargeable portable radio/Walkie Talkie and Weather Radio and First Aid Kit, top of cooler, right. [SCOTT KEELER | Times] [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Jun. 3
Updated Aug. 29

TAMPA — You bought batteries, found the flashlights and stockpiled sandbags. You’re not ready yet, though.

The region’s top emergency preparedness experts shared their tips, tricks and a few of the more unusual items on their shopping lists this year to make sure your hurricane kit is ready for the worst of whatever weather comes our way.

Start with a thorough evaluation of any existing supply kits you’re relying on this hurricane season, said Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council director of resilience Brady Smith. Stocking a household hurricane kit is a lot like preparing for a long camping trip, he said. Stock up on enough supplies to keep every family member comfortable and safe for up to seven days — say, for a worst-case scenario storm.

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

Keep everything in a portable cooler or a durable, waterproof tote that’s easy to grab at a moment’s notice. And if your hurricane kit has survived several seasons untouched, it’s time to double-check expiration dates and identify what’s missing before store shelves empty.

“Guarding against complacency is the biggest hurdle we face year after year,” Smith said. “Every single year, residents still need to make sure they have fresh hurricane supplies packed up and ready to go, so whether they have a couple days to evacuate or a couple hours they know they’re ready.”

Check expiration dates and stock up

Emergency food stores, including pet food, baby food, infant formula and other dietary items should be replaced every six months. The council recommends packing enough freeze-dried or canned food for three days per person. Look for high-calorie, non-refrigerated food items like peanut butter, powdered sports drinks high in electrolytes and protein bars to help maintain energy in humid conditions. A camp stove with extra propane will extend your menu options.

It takes a lot to quench everyone’s thirst

Every person in your group needs seven gallons of water — enough so everyone has one gallon per day for every day of the week. That’s in case water supplies become contaminated. You should always keep water purification tablets on hand and should consider investing in portable devices like water bottles, plastic pitchers or personal straws that come with filtration systems to ensure access to clean, potable drinking water at all times.

Print before you lose power

Even if you think you know what you’ll need before the storm arrives, don’t take any chances. Take the time to pick up or print out the hurricane preparedness guides or emergency kit checklists provided by your county’s emergency management agency, the Florida Division of Emergency Management ( or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (

Double-check, then triple-check

It’s the small things that could cause big problems during a disaster. If you buy canned goods, make sure you also have a manual can opener — not an electric one. Double check that your flashlights have batteries, your gas cans are full and your power banks are fully charged before you lose power. Make sure you have enough cash to last a week, in case local ATMs are knocked out.

“It’s the things that seem obvious, like a can opener or tons of batteries that people forget to check,” Smith said, “especially if they’ve had a hurricane kit for years.”

Medical and medicinal

Every family member needs to have their prescriptions ready to take with them in an evacuation or just to make sure they don’t run out while pharmacies are shuttered. In Florida, doctors can provide a 90-day supply for most medications. The council recommends taking enough to last two weeks. Every hurricane kit should also include first aid supplies, hand sanitizer, insect repellent, sunscreen, garbage bags — and toilet paper.

Gear up

Stock up on basic camping gear such as waterproof matches, hand-crank radios, external cellphone chargers, solar chargers and waterproof gadget cases.

Stay comfy

Pack clothes, pillows, inflatable mattresses, sleeping bags and anything else you’ll need to stay comfortable if you have to evacuate to a shelter. Old-fashioned entertainment like board games, playing cards and books may also help.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

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

Hurricane kit suggestions

Air horn to call for help

Assorted batteries, including for hearing aids

Bleach to clean up mold


Fix-a-Flat for tires and similar products. Storm debris could shred tires

Hand sanitizer; personal wipes

Long-handle squeegees for scraping mud out of a flooded home

Laundry detergent, bucket for washing clothes

Paper towels (better than sponges if there’s no water)

Portable air-conditioner that can be plugged into a generator

Portable camping stove

Portable power banks for smartphones and tablets

Powerful flashlight, laser pointer to attract help in the dark (aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a federal crime)

Rain poncho

Rags, sponges, mops for cleanup

Several pairs of dry socks and back-up shoes

Spare contacts and eyeglasses (also eyedrops)

Spare keys

Spray paint to paint address, insurance carrier on house

Sunscreen, lip balm, insect repellent

Termite bait and ant poison

Toothbrushing pads (when water is in short supply)

Water purification tablets

Waterproof matches and lighter

Work gloves and rubber gloves


  1. The projected path of Nestor National Hurricane Center
    Nestor is expected to dump two to four inches of rain in Tampa Bay, along with the threat of tornadoes.
  2. The projected path for Tropical Storm Nestor, according to the National Hurricane Center. National Hurricane Center
    Tampa Bay should expect wind and rain tonight into Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service
  3. The sun sets over a slab which once served as a foundation for a home on Mexico Beach in May. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Area leaders fear lower population numbers will lead to reduced federal funding and political representation.
  4. The projected path for Potential Tropical Cyclone 16, according to the National Hurricane Center. National Hurricane Center
    Thunderstorms have been spotted off the west coast of Florida as Potential Tropical Cyclone 16 moves over the central Gulf of Mexico.
  5. The tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico that’s projected to strengthen as it approaches Florida could put a crimp ― or much worse ― in Tampa Bay’s weekend plans. National Hurricane Center
    The National Weather Service warns that the Gulf of Mexico disturbance could strengthen and bring wind, rain and possibly tornadoes to the bay area.
  6. A broad area of low pressure headed toward the Gulf of Mexico will bring wind, rain and possibly tornadoes to the Tampa Bay area this weekend. National Hurricane Center
    The National Hurricane Center has issued a storm surge watch for Florida’s Gulf Coast from Indian Pass to Clearwater.
  7. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. Florida State University professor Wenyuan Fan said the storm probably created "stormquakes" offshore in the gulf, too. [Photo courtesy of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration]] NOAA
    Analysis of a decade of records shows hurricanes causing seismic activity on continental shelf
  8. Tropical depression 15 has formed in the eastern Atlantic. National Weather Service
    The newly formed system joins a tropical wave off the coast of South America.
  9. Peggy Wood, center, attends a community announcement with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, in Mexico Beach in September. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Wood family presses forward with plans to rebuild the Driftwood Inn amid a changing town.
  10.  Mexico Beach, one year anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Michael. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    One year later, Mexico Beach is still recovering from the Category 5 storm.