Hurricane 2020: The gear you need to stay safe from the storm — and COVID-19

The pandemic changes what we’ll need to be ready for hurricane season. Masks and sanitizer are now at the top of the list.
Lee Jernigan, 60, from Leesburg, purchases gas containers and water at a St. Petersburg Home Depot in August 2019 to get ready for Hurricane Dorian.
Lee Jernigan, 60, from Leesburg, purchases gas containers and water at a St. Petersburg Home Depot in August 2019 to get ready for Hurricane Dorian. [ ALLIE GOULDING | Times ]
Published May 28, 2020|Updated May 29, 2020

What could be worse than being forced to stay home for months on end while the world rides out the CVOID-19 pandemic?

How about being stuck at home during the pandemic with a major hurricane on its way — and not enough toilet paper and batteries?

It seems like the plot of a low-brow, low-budget science fiction movie. It also could be our collective reality as forecasters predict an active hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean this year.

The National Weather Service has made two new additions to its tried-and-true hurricane preparedness checklist via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: two face masks per person and hand sanitizer. Those are important because face masks will likely be required to stay in hurricane shelters.

Related: Hurricane 2020: Seven things to know about a hurricane season like no other

Those items have been hard to find on store shelves as the coronavirus has laid siege to the state since early March. Pandemic shopping has also left other basic necessities like toilet paper, bread and flour in short supply.

That’s why emergency management officials recommend that Floridians should start their hurricane shopping now, and not wait until a storm approaches.

You may have already stocked up your household during the pandemic, but you should still take inventory of your supplies and make sure you have items specifically for hurricane season. Use the checklists released by your county’s emergency management team. The Florida Division of Emergency Management ( and the Department of Homeland Security ( also offer resources.

Residents need to be prepared to hunker down for a storm — or to evacuate within a matter of hours to an emergency shelter, or someone else’s house.

The state asks Floridians to have seven days of food, water and supplies for every member of the family or group. That’s how long it might take for your area to be resupplied after a major storm.

When it comes to water, the general rule is that every person needs one gallon a day.

Keep your supplies in portable coolers and waterproof bins. If you go to a shelter, everyone will need clothes, pillows, inflatable mattresses or sleeping bags, and anything else needed to stay comfortable. Books and board games can help pass the time.

Related: Latest hurricane season forecast: ‘It’s expected to be a busy one’

Every family member needs to have their prescriptions ready to take with them in an evacuation and have enough to make sure they don’t run out while pharmacies are shuttered. In Florida, doctors can provide a 90–day supply for most medications. But at the very least, it’s a good idea to have two weeks worth of medication on hand.

Water purification tablets could also come in handy. Also consider buying things like plastic water bottles, plastic pitchers or personal straws that come with filtration systems to ensure access to clean, potable drinking water at all times.

The little things are also important. There’s no point in stocking up on canned goods if you don’t have any manual can openers. Have several on hand, just in case.

Remember that some supplies like batteries and certain foods need to be refreshed every year. Emergency food stores, including pet food, baby food, infant formula and other dietary items should be replaced every six months.

Try to have enough freeze–dried or canned food to last each person for a few days. 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.

Of course, on top of keeping all of this handy, residents must still buy toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and other paper products that are in short supply and could be throughout the summer.

In a way, preparing for the pandemic is like getting an early jump on hurricane season. But the time to assemble your supplies is this summer, before the storm season peaks starting in August.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story attributed information to Brady Smith at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. Smith left the council in 2018. The information was obtained that year.

What to put in your hurricane kit:

  • Air horn, to call for help
  • Assorted batteries, including for hearing aids
  • Bleach to clean up mold
  • Cash
  • Fix–a–Flat tire sealant and similar products, in case storm debris shreds your tires
  • Hand sanitizer; personal wipes (make sure they disinfect)
  • 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 (Remember: aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a federal crime)
  • Rain poncho
  • Rags, sponges, mops for cleanup
  • Several pairs of dry socks and backup shoes
  • Spare contacts and eyeglasses (also eyedrops)
  • Spare keys to homes, businesses and vehicles
  • 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

2020 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

Lessons from Hurricane Michael

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