Advertisement
  1. Weather

2017 Hurricane Season: How to protect your documents, home, boat

Published Sep. 5, 2017

Longtime Floridians know the drill. Each year, as the heat and humidity build, forecasters begin their warnings: Hurricane season is upon us, and you'd better take it seriously.

Sure, it was easy to tune out the advice when, year after year, storms skirted past Florida. The Tampa Bay area hasn't had a direct strike in almost a century.

Let the 2016 storm season serve as a warning: Destructive hurricanes lashed both Florida coasts. The bay area also endured flooding, especially in Pasco County.

What's at stake in a storm is just about everything you own — your irreplaceable wedding photos, your pets, your windows and watercrafts. And when a hurricane is bearing down, you won't have much time to make sure they're protected.

Here are some specifics to guide you through the critical process of keeping your home, your boat and your belongings safe this hurricane season.

Protect your home

• Act fast: Everybody else will flood the same hardware stores to buy storm supplies.

• If you're boarding your windows with plywood, don't drill directly into the frame. That lets water inside. Instead, apply bolts, nails or screws to concrete or wood about every 6 inches.

• If you're in a rush, don't waste time taping your windows. Experts say it doesn't keep them from shattering (though it may make cleanup easier afterward).

• Need to brace your garage door? You can buy a kit from a home-improvement store. Experts recommend using wooden 2 by 4s to brace the door horizontally and vertically.

• French doors and double doors are additional vulnerable spots that need to be reinforced. Add extra locks or slide bolts, and pay extra attention to doors that swing inward.

• Give your roof and eaves a close look. The impact of a storm will likely accelerate any damage. Same goes for broken trusses or beams. Make repairs before a storm is bearing down.

• Secure any loose items on your lawn. Hurricane-force winds will take old tree limbs, sports equipment and lawn ornaments and turn them into window-shattering projectiles. Don't put your home (and your neighbors' homes) at risk.

Protect your documents

• Grab a pen and paper and make a list of your important documents, then make copies of each one. When a hurricane hits, you don't want to be scrambling to find the papers that prove your identity and verify what you own.

That means insurance policies, car titles, important receipts, passports, Medicare cards, appraisal documents, medical paperwork, birth certificates, tax returns, Social Security cards — the list goes on. Don't forget your pets' paperwork.

• If you're evacuating, take photos of your home and belongings before you go. Print them out, if possible.

• Your smartphone and email won't be much help if the power is off for an extended period of time. That makes it even more important to have physical copies of your documents on hand to help speed up the process of reporting storm damage.

• It helps to have electronic scans of your documents, which the IRS accepts, saved on an external hard drive as a backup. You can also back up files on the cloud through free and paid services such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

• Sporting goods stores sell watertight bags that can protect your paperwork and photos, and Pelicancases.com stocks airtight, watertight and "crushproof" cases. Some tackle and ammunition boxes with O-ring seals can also keep documents safe from water.

Protect your boat

• The best course of action is to move your boat inland far in advance of a storm. Look for dry storage in a marina or garage.

• If you're short on time, take your boat up creek or a river — mitigating the effects of storm surge, which raises the water level and can break deck lines. Operate cautiously, and know that drawbridges can lock down many hours before gale-force winds begin.

• Leaving your boat tied up at the marina invites more risk, but you can minimize the damage. Ensure your deck lines are strong — this is not a time to take chances. Extra-long "spring" lines help during major tidal fluctuations and are a good investment. Remove all valuables, disconnect electronics and put away loose items, such as sails and cushions.

• After the storm, remember that buoys and channel markers may have shifted. Drive your boat slowly, as if you're in a no-wake zone, and keep a close watch for debris, fallen trees, wrecked boats and other dangers.

Information from Times files was used in this report. Contact Claire McNeill at cmcneill@tampabay.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The projected path of Nestor National Hurricane Center
    Nestor is expected to dump two to four inches of rain in Tampa Bay, along with the threat of tornadoes.
  2. A semi-trailer truck fell onto an SUV on Interstate 4 on Friday night after a reported tornado touched down and crossed the highway near Lakeland. No one was injured. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    A tornado caused damage and power loss but no injuries in Pinellas County. In Polk County, I-4 drivers were fortunate no one was injured when another tornado crosses the interstate.
  3. The projected path for Tropical Storm Nestor, according to the National Hurricane Center. National Hurricane Center
    Tampa Bay should expect wind and rain tonight into Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service
  4. Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue was scheduled to headline on Friday, Oct. 18 at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday in Coachman Park. Mathieu Bitton
    Festival and city officials will monitor the weather accordingly as a tropical disturbance threatens heavy wind and rain.
  5. The projected path for Potential Tropical Cyclone 16, according to the National Hurricane Center. National Hurricane Center
    Thunderstorms have been spotted off the west coast of Florida as Potential Tropical Cyclone 16 moves over the central Gulf of Mexico.
  6. Donny Jasinski, a Baltimore native and a freshman at the University of Tampa, relaxes by the pool while browsing through his I-Phone on the campus Aquatics Center on Thursday, September 27, 2018. "One of the reasons why I came here for school was the weather," said Jasinski. JONES, OCTAVIO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    It’s fall, but it sure doesn’t feel like fall. When will the bay area get some real pumpkin spice weather?
  7. A broad area of low pressure headed toward the Gulf of Mexico will bring wind, rain and possibly tornadoes to the Tampa Bay area this weekend. National Hurricane Center
    The National Hurricane Center has issued a storm surge watch for Florida’s Gulf Coast from Indian Pass to Clearwater.
  8. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. Florida State University professor Wenyuan Fan said the storm probably created "stormquakes" offshore in the gulf, too. [Photo courtesy of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration]] NOAA
    Analysis of a decade of records shows hurricanes causing seismic activity on continental shelf
  9. Tropical depression 15 has formed in the eastern Atlantic. National Weather Service
    The newly formed system joins a tropical wave off the coast of South America.
  10. Peggy Wood, center, attends a community announcement with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, in Mexico Beach in September. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Wood family presses forward with plans to rebuild the Driftwood Inn amid a changing town.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement