After the hurricanes that have hit Florida the past three years, a reminder shouldn’t be necessary that today is the first day of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Matthew slammed Florida’s east cost in 2016, Irma drenched the entire state in 2017 and hit Highlands County hard, and we have all seen pictures of the destruction that Michael brought to portions of the Panhandle last year.
This is the time to prepare for a hurricane as this is the week to buy certain items and be free of paying sales taxes. Eligible items include batteries, flashlights, radios and generators, among other items. You can get the full details at floridarevenue.com/disasters.
The week-long sales tax holiday, which ends June 6, is expected to save shoppers $800,000.
If we have learned anything over the last couple of decades it’s that there is no magic wand to be waved after disaster has struck.
When trees block roads, cell towers collapse, and waters rise, it takes time for emergency workers to get to the devastation. This means being prepared to fend for yourself for at least three days. As county residents saw two years ago, it could take as long as two weeks or longer to get power restored.
Start now to store canned or packaged food that can be eaten without cooking. Have gallons of water on hand. Any hurricane veterans of 2004 or 2017 will tell you that living without electricity is hot and uncomfortable. Hydration is essential.
Now is the time to think ahead, not when a storm is less than 24 hours away and anxious people have formed into long, uncomfortable lines.
For example, now is the time to call the doctor to make arrangements for extra medications when the time comes.
Now is the time to figure out what you will do with your pets. Highlands County does not have any pet-friendly hurricane shelters.
Now is the time to find a safe, dry place to store important papers.
Now is the time to make sure your home insurance is in order, or to purchase some.
Now is the time to create an evacuation plan, or make arrangements if you’ll want to leave before the storm.
Someone recently said that disasters are God’s way of bringing people together, so why not introduce yourself to your neighbors now.
One thing is for sure, if a major hurricane does strike, we will have to be our own first responders. It will help to know one another.
For more tips on hurricane preparedness, visit the National Hurricane Center’s website at nhc.noaa.gov, or locally, go the Highlands County Emergency Management Department’s website at hcbcc.net/departments/emergency_operations.
Remember, hurricane season doesn’t end until Nov. 30.