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When the storm has passed: Now what? Safety tips for returning home

From down power lines to flooding rivers, there are still potential threats to look out for.
Angel Garavito, 15, walks down a flooded street in the Orlo Vista neighborhood of Orlando on Sept. 11, 2017. When Hurricane Irma blew through Central Florida, it dumped nearly 10 inches of rain on the community in a day.
Angel Garavito, 15, walks down a flooded street in the Orlo Vista neighborhood of Orlando on Sept. 11, 2017. When Hurricane Irma blew through Central Florida, it dumped nearly 10 inches of rain on the community in a day. [ AILEEN PERILLA | Orlando Sentinel ]
Published Sep. 28|Updated Sep. 29

As Hurricane Ian made its way toward Florida, mandatory evacuation orders were issued for thousands of residents across the state. Many more have taken it upon themselves to leave.

But once the wind dies down and the rain slows, it will eventually come time to return home. So what should you expect after the storm?

Roads will likely be covered in debris. The power may still be out. Waterways could continue to flood. It could take weeks for things to return to normal. Here’s how to keep yourself safe.

Don’t leave straight away

  • Just because things have appeared to clear up doesn’t mean the storm is over. Wait until local officials say the storm has passed and it’s safe to return.

Drive with caution

  • Once you arrive at your destination, try to stay off the roads.
  • Keep an eye out for broken traffic lights. If a traffic light isn’t working, treat the intersection like a four-way stop.
  • Traffic patterns may change during the recovery. Obey all “road closed” signs and work zone speed limits.

Stay away from water

  • Even after the storm has moved, local rivers are still prone to delayed flooding. Do not go for a swim. Do not go fishing. Stay on dry land.
  • Standing water could be contaminated with raw sewage, bacteria or other germs that could make you sick. That water could also be electrically charged from a downed power line.

Avoid damaged buildings

  • A hurricane may leave some buildings with serious structural issues. If you hear any unusual shifting noises inside, get out. The building could collapse.
  • If the building is flooded, you’ll want to make sure the power is turned off. Exercise caution when doing so. When in doubt, call an electrician.
  • If you smell gas, turn the supply gas valve off for each appliance and open the windows. Call your gas company and the fire department.

Use safe water

  • Tap water may be contaminated after a storm. Always follow local boil water advisories and other guidance before drinking from the tap.
  • The same applies for cooking, washing dishes, brushing your teeth, washing your hands, etc.

• • •

2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

ROAD CLOSURES: What to know about bridges, roads as Hurricane Ian approaches.

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.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN A SHELTER: What to bring — and not bring — plus information on pets, keeping it civil and more.

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

SAFEGUARD YOUR HOME: Storms and property damage go hand in hand. Here’s how to prepare.

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

RISING THREAT: Tampa Bay will flood. Here's how to get ready.

DOUBLE-CHECK: Checklists for building all kinds of hurricane kits

PHONE IT IN: Use your smartphone to protect your data, documents and photos.

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

• • •

Rising Threat: A special report on flood risk and climate change

PART 1: The Tampa Bay Times partnered with the National Hurricane Center for a revealing look at future storms.

PART 2: Even weak hurricanes can cause huge storm surges. Experts say people don't understand the risk.

PART 3: Tampa Bay has huge flood risk. What should we do about it?

INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the hurricane flood risk.

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