Hurricane 2019: What if Pinellas mobile home residents don’t evacuate?

Pinellas’s top emergency official lays out her worst-case scenario: What if mobile home residents refuse to evacuate for a hurricane?
A row of mobile homes in Palmetto Mobile Home Park sit just as they were the day after Hurricane Charley landed in 2004. Charley is a reminder that mobile home residents must evacuate no matter how powerful a hurricane may be on its way. [Times 2004]
A row of mobile homes in Palmetto Mobile Home Park sit just as they were the day after Hurricane Charley landed in 2004. Charley is a reminder that mobile home residents must evacuate no matter how powerful a hurricane may be on its way. [Times 2004]
Published June 11
Updated June 12

Pinellas County’s 290 mobile home parks house 47,000 people during the peak of the season.

If a hurricane threatens Pinellas, every one of those residents must evacuate.

That’s the worst-case scenario for Pinellas Emergency Management Director Cathie Perkins: What happens if a significant number of those endangered residents stay put during a direct strike?

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

No mobile home is considered safe from a hurricane — nor from the tornadoes that might follow. So no matter how strong or weak the hurricane — the low end of a Category 1 storm is 74 mph winds — county officials will order those residents to evacuate.

Pinellas County Emergency Management Director Cathie Perkins. [Pinellas County]
Pinellas County Emergency Management Director Cathie Perkins. [Pinellas County]

“We want to make sure all of those folks understand that they have to evacuate regardless of what category the storm is,” Perkins said. “The good thing for us is some of those folks go home during the hot summer months.

“The bad thing is some of them stay behind. We still have to go out and search for them and make sure no one stayed behind.”

Officials plan to reinforce the evacuation mantra with a public outreach campaign. They prepared bilingual door hangers with hurricane and tornado safety tips printed in English and Spanish (that’s what many seasonal visitors speak). The county also included a survey to figure out how residents are getting information during a storm and where they evacuated to for Hurricane Irma in 2017.

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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Irma actually spurred more residents to take hurricane season seriously, Perkins said. Before Irma, there were about 2,300 special needs residents who had registered with the county to get help evacuating because of medical conditions.

After Irma, that number more than doubled after another 2,700 special needs residents registered. That count also helps the county know where its most vulnerable residents live in case of a storm.

“We have an elderly population that lives here and, unfortunately, some of those folks rely heavily on services coming in, such as Meals on Wheels,” Perkins said. “Those folks become even more vulnerable when those services disappear.”


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

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

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