It’s that time again…June 1…the official start of Hurricane Season.
While it is predicted to be a quiet season this year, that does not mean a major storm could strike the US coastline…especially Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay region has not been hit with a major hurricane since the 2004 season, when Hurricane Charley – a category 4 storm – nearly missed Tampa head-on and jogged northeastward into Charlotte County, and then towards Orlando. Had the storm remained out along the coast for just a bit longer and struck Tampa, the storm possibly could have reached category 5 status and cause immense damage to all of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. A year later, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina – a category 5 storm – struck the New Orleans region, sending floodwaters into the coastal city and devastating the region for months. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy – a category 3 storm – ravaged the New York City metro region, flooding the city’s subways and ripping apart parts of coastal New Jersey. Katrina and Sandy were to two costliest Atlantic hurricanes in US history.
Many weather experts predict that it will only be a matter of time before Tampa gets hit head-on with a major hurricane of category 4 or 5 status.
Now, I don’t want to give out erroneous information regarding Hurricane preparation. So I’ve left that to the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA, where they have a website dedicated to disaster preparation called Ready.Gov. I strongly encourage you to visit the site and make preparations before it is way too late.
For those of you who don’t have transportation and may not have friends/relatives that live in non-evacuation zones or out of town (in other words, this is an absolute LAST RESORT); HART and PSTA operate special services during evacuation periods to allow those who have limited evacuation options to be transported to a county-operated shelter. You can view general information, route maps, and more via the links below.
Should the Tampa Bay region be hit with a hurricane of any magnitude; once storm conditions begin to affect the area…you need to remain off the roads! High winds can send trees, tree limbs, power lines and poles, and other objects out into the roadways. Flooding becomes a major issue – especially along coastal areas. Vehicles are at great risk of being damaged by winds, flying objects, and flood waters. And above all – your safety, and the safety of your loved ones, could be placed at immense risk. It is simply NOT WORTH IT to be out on the roads once storm conditions have begun affecting the area.
All transit services will be suspended as soon as county officials deem that it is too dangerous to continue running buses.
Additionally, the Florida Highway Patrol has full authority to close down any, if not all five major bridge crossings in the Tampa Bay Area; the Courtney Campbell Causeway, the Bayside Bridge, the Howard Frankland Bridge, the Gandy Bridge, and the Sunshine Skyway. On the Skyway specifically, whenever high winds (anything above 25mph, sustained) are present, the “High Winds” indicator lights will flash as you approach the bridge. FHP will begin shutting down bridges when sustained winds reach 40mph.
Please check with your county/municipality for detailed information on shelters, picking up sandbags, evacuation maps, and more. I have included links for each of the county government websites in the Tampa Bay Area. NOTE: This list does not include individual municipalities. Some municipalities may have specific information for their own residents regarding sandbag pickup locations, etc.
Hurricane Information for Virginia Residents (including the Hampton Roads region)
NOTE: Proper identification/proof of residency (i.e. state-issued driver’s license, utility bills showing address) are required when picking up sandbags.
Be safe out there!