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Hurricane Irma: 5 myths about hurricane prep to forget

Workers secure windows of a police checkpoint ahead of Hurricane Irma in Caibarien, Cuba, on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (AP)
Published Sep. 8, 2017

Can I put valuables in my dishwasher? Can I drink the water I plan to store in my bathtub?

Even seasoned Floridians might not know whether their go-to hurricane tips are fact or fiction.

As Hurricane Irma approaches, review five myths about hurricane preparedness to see if you're doing what experts recommend.

Crack your windows during a hurricane

One of the most pervasive myths about hurricane preparedness is that cracking your home's windows a little can prevent them from breaking with all the wind pressure that can build up outside during a hurricane.

But doing so will only create more problems, said former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate.

"It's really great for letting the water in your house, making sure there's plenty of mold," Fugate said. "Basically it's like blowing the roof off the top of your house."

Taping up windows prevents them from shattering

Another rumor is to use duct tape in a pinch on windows to stop water from entering or windows from breaking. But doing that can create larger, and more dangerous, shards of glass when the window busts. Plywood and shutters are the best way to go.

Hotels are required to house pets and service animals

You might have heard there's a law requiring hotels to accept pets in the event of mandatory evacuations. That's not true.

"Florida law imposes no obligation on a public lodging establishment to accept pets," said Erin Power, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association spokeswoman.

The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act requires publicly-operated disaster shelters open to the public to accommodate pets as a condition of eligibility for federal reimbursement to operate the shelter, but that does not extend to lodging properties.

The dishwasher is a safe place to keep valuables you don't want to get wet

It's not a good idea to keep valuables in your dishwasher, said Ralph Feldkamp, the owner of Ralph's Appliance & Air Conditioning Repair in St. Petersburg. Dishwashers don't keep water out.

Feldkamp said if your home is flooded, so will your dishwasher. He said he sees a lot of flooded dishwashers in Shore Acres. The low-lying neighborhood in northeast St. Petersburg is one of the most flood-prone areas in Tampa Bay.

Besides flooding, extreme wind can tear apart the interior of your residence, including appliances.

"If your dishwasher gets ripped then your valuables are going to be floating around the neighborhood," he said.

There's also the possibility that your dishwasher will turn on during the storm, which would not bode well for your valuables.

You only need to board up windows and doors that are facing the water

Hurricane winds move in a circular pattern, so there's no way to predict how winds will affect a dwelling. Plus, tornadoes are sometimes embedded in a hurricane's rainbands.

"Wind is going to come from one direction, and then it will start swinging and coming from the other direction," said Ryan Pedigo, the director of health preparedness at the Hillsborough County Health Department. "You could get hit from all sides."

The safest bet is to board all windows.

It's okay to drink water stored in sinks, bathtubs

This last myth isn't actually a myth, just something to be careful about. Drinking water you've stored in your bathtub should be a last resort.

"We don't recommend it because people don't clean their bath tub enough," he said. "If you clean your tub very well and rinse, though, then, yes you could use it for that."

Bill Logan, St. Petersburg public works spokesman, echoed Pedigo's advice: "It may not be the first choice, but it's definitely clean and potable water."

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird and staff writer Caitlin Johnston and contributed to this report. Contact Allison Graves at agraves@tampabay.com. Follow @AllisonBGraves

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