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After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelters

Here are some answers to frequently asked post-storm questions.
Bruce Myers cleans up the Dolphin Reef condominium building in Indian Rocks Beach on Sept. 29, 2022, after Hurricane Ian passed through. The building had no real damage, just fallen palm fronds. “We lucked out,” he said.
Bruce Myers cleans up the Dolphin Reef condominium building in Indian Rocks Beach on Sept. 29, 2022, after Hurricane Ian passed through. The building had no real damage, just fallen palm fronds. “We lucked out,” he said. [ TRACEY MCMANUS | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Sep. 28|Updated Oct. 7

Once the storm has passed, the real work begins.

Emergency managers advise residents to stay out of floodwater and away from any damaged power lines. Here is information on frequently asked post-storm topics.

Cleanup

Even if your home didn’t sustain much damage, you’ll likely have to clean up a lot of debris on your property. And since that debris might have been contaminated by floodwater, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing waterproof gloves and hard hats during disaster cleanup.

Start the process by airing out your home and throwing out any wet items that won’t dry quickly, like mattresses, couches and books. If mold has already started to grow, clean it up with a mixture of bleach and water. Drywall and insulation that have been soaked by floodwater have to go, too.

U-Haul is offering 30 days of free self-storage and U-Box container usage at 43 Florida facilities to residents who stand to be impacted by Hurricane Ian. Contact your nearest participating facility at uhaul.com.

Helping Hands Crisis Clean Up Hotline: The group formerly known as Mormon Helping Hands has opened a home clean up hotline. Residents needing assistance with fallen tree removal, drywall, flooring, appliance removal, tarping roofs and debris removal can call 800-451-1954. All services are free and provided by volunteers from around the country.

Michael Ciarleglio with the city of Pinellas Park, cleans up a few tree branches while working the morning after Hurricane Elsa moved over Pinellas Park in 2021. Experts advise that you make sure that a qualified line-clearance arborist treats big trees, especially if it is near electrical wires.
Michael Ciarleglio with the city of Pinellas Park, cleans up a few tree branches while working the morning after Hurricane Elsa moved over Pinellas Park in 2021. Experts advise that you make sure that a qualified line-clearance arborist treats big trees, especially if it is near electrical wires. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Yard debris and fallen trees

Each municipality contracts with different companies for waste management and will have different directions about dealing with yard debris and bulk items. Check the website of your city or county (if there is power). Contractors that you hire to do work, such as tree cutting, fence work, flooding repair or removal of household items, are responsible for debris removal.

If falling trees punctured your roof, cover any holes with a tarp to keep out rainwater. If your windows have been blown out, tape plastic sheeting over the openings. Since most insurance doesn’t cover damage sustained after the storm, this step could be crucial.

The University of Florida agricultural college offers advice on post-hurricane tree care.

They advise that you make sure a qualified line-clearance arborist treats big trees, especially if they are near electrical wires. Major pruning to alter the tree’s structure should not be done at this time. Trees use energy stored in the wood to recover from damage and produce new growth, so the least amount of live wood possible should be removed.

“Think of the stored energy in trees as the limited funds in a bank account. After paying for repairs on the house due to hurricane damage, homeowners usually do not rush out to buy a new sailboat. Similarly, this is not the time to further reduce the already limited ‘funds’ of the tree by removing live wood,” UF advises.

Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water. Throw away perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages. When in doubt, throw it out.
Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water. Throw away perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages. When in doubt, throw it out. [ DAVID J. NEAL | Miami Herald ]

Food

Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water. Throw away perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages. When in doubt, throw it out.

Clean and sanitize dishes, utensils and other surfaces that touch food that could have been contaminated, like refrigerator drawers or kitchen countertops.

Feeding Tampa Bay has meals ready to eat, bottled water, pre-packed meal boxes and fresh produce to distribute. If you are in need, you can go to feedingtampabay.org to find a pantry or distribution site near you.

For those who wish to volunteer, you can also click here for more details.

Shelter

Evacuees looking for transitional shelter, essential repair and low-cost home repair loans can visit fema.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.

Uber is offering round-trip rides to and from shelter locations in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Pasco counties listed at floridadisaster.org. Riders can enter promotional code IANRELIEF in the app to redeem a free round-trip up to $30 each way. Rides must be requested to or from any state-approved evacuation shelter in Florida.

Lyft has activated its LyftUp Disaster Response program and providing Florida residents with free and discounted rides to help those affected move to designated shelters and access critical resources. Rides can be accessed using the code IANRELIEF22 valid for 2 rides up to $15 each, from now until Oct. 7. See more information from Lyft here.

Agencies

The federal Small Business Association offers disaster assistance in the form of low-interest loans to homeowners, renters and business owners in regions affected by declared disasters. Loans are given to cover repairs and replacement of physical assets damaged in a declared disaster. Visit sba.gov/disaster.

If you are uninsured or a Medicaid beneficiary, you can access care by calling your regional behavioral health Local Management Entity/Managed Care Organization.

FEMA: Florida homeowners and renters in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties who were affected by Hurricane Ian may apply for FEMA disaster assistance. To do so, go to disasterassistance.gov, or call 800-621-3362 from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time, or by using the FEMA mobile app.

Disaster Contractors Network: The DCN connects homeowners needing emergency repairs with licensed contractors and construction suppliers. Once you have assessed your needs, log onto DCNOnline.org to search a list of licensed contractors in your area.

Pinellas County Economic Development: Area business owners who need help recovering from Hurricane Ian can apply for assistance by calling the PCED at 727-464-7332.

Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance: Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are now available to businesses in Pinellas County under the Presidential disaster declaration due to Hurricane Ian. Businesses in Pinellas County are eligible for both Physical and Economic Injury Disaster Loans. The Electronic Loan Application (ELA) is available via the SBA’s secure website at disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/ela/s. Deadline to file for physical property damage is Nov. 28. Deadline to file for economic injury is June 29, 2023. For more information, visit sba.gov/disaster.

Self-care

Experts say you should be careful not to overexert yourself as you recover from a hurricane. Emotions often run high after a disaster, causing physical tasks to tire you out more quickly than usual.

Free telehealth visits: With many urgent care and doctor’s offices closed, Florida Blue, the state’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan, launched free telehealth visits for anyone impacted by the hurricane – even if they’re not a Florida Blue member. Clinicians can help with nonemergency conditions such as allergies, cold, flu and sinus problems. They also can prescribe some medications that are not controlled substances. Call the Teladoc hotline at 855-225-5032.

Emotional support: The stress and anxiety of a hurricane can sometimes be overwhelming. Florida Blue teamed with New Directions Behavioral Health to offer a toll-free 24/7 bilingual emotional support helpline at 833-848-1764 for anyone in Florida experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety, trauma or grief and in need of immediate emotional support. Callers may also receive referrals to other sources of mental health support and community resources to help.

Disaster helpline: The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 that is available 24 hours a day to provide immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to natural- or human-caused disasters. Learn more about other behavioral health resources available from DHHS at ncdhhs.gov/behavioral-health-during-and-after-hurricane.

Crisis Text Line: Florida residents, and those with loved ones in Florida, who are experiencing trauma, stress, loss and anxiety caused by Hurricane Ian can get free mental health support that is accessible via a simple text and is available in both Spanish and English. Individuals seeking support through Crisis Text Line can text HELLO to 741741 or HOLA to 741741.

LyftUp Disaster Response: Lyft is offering free and discounted rides to Florida residents affected by Hurricane Ian who are attempting to move to shelter or access critical resources. Rides can be accessed using the code IANRELIEF22 valid for 2 rides up to $15 each, from now until 11:59 p.m. Oct. 7, or while available.

YouFit Free Showers: Select YouFit Gym locations are offering free showers, cell phone charging and stress relief work outs through Oct. 5 to anyone in need. Locations include: YouFit Tampa - Racetrack Road, 13891 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa; YouFit Carrollwood, 14350 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; YouFit Land O’Lakes, 21707 Village Lakes Shopping Center Drive, Land O’ Lakes; YouFit Pinellas Park, 6421 66th St. N, Pinellas Park; YouFit St. Petersburg, 6157 Ninth Ave. N, St. Petersburg; and YouFit Largo, 1111 Missouri Ave. N, Largo.

Free Medical Help: HealthTap, the virtual primary care provider, is working to aid in the crisis by providing one free visit with a doctor and three free months of extended care to those impacted by the storm. Those seeking care to go healthtap.com and create a free account. Follow the prompts as if booking a $39 primary care visit and three months membership for $45. Upon check out, enter promo code HURRICANEIAN to get your free medical services.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times hurricane coverage

POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter

WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?

WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.

HOW TO TALK TO KIDS ABOUT THE HURRICANE: A school mental health expert says to let them know what’s happening, keep a routine and stay calm.

SELF-CARE: Protect your mental health during a hurricane.

IT’S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

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