Every year, prior to hurricane season, your family should review your hurricane plan and make changes as necessary. It should include if you plan to evacuate, where you will go, the route you will take to get there, when you will leave and what supplies you will take.
If you plan to stay, make sure you have all of the supplies necessary to be on your own for at least 72 hours. If you are planning to go to an evacuation shelter, have your shelter supplies kit packed and ready. Make sure you have all the materials on hand to protect your home. You should also trim dead wood from trees. Don't forget to make arrangements for pets. Print and save this page for future reference. You may not have power if a storm is approaching.
If the storm is threatening the area you should listen to local media for information and actions to be taken. In addition you should:
- Fuel your car. You will need it to evacuate and pumps don't work without electricity.
- Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools.
- Install your storm shutters or cover windows with plywood and secure all doors.
- Prepare boats as appropriate.
- Turn up refrigerators and freezers (link to info below) to the highest settings.
- Turn off small appliances that are not needed.
- Turn off LP tanks.
- Call an out-of-town friend or relative to let them know of your plans. Then instruct other family members to call that person for information about your family after the storm.
- Fill sinks and bathtubs with water.
- Get an extra supply of cash. Banks and ATMs may not be operational immediately after the storm.
Due to the amount of time required for evacuation in Santa Rosa County, evacuation orders may be issued before a hurricane watch or warning have been issued by the National Hurricane Center.
Refrigerators and Freezers
During a hurricane emergency, leave the refrigerator and freezer plugged in and turn them up to the coldest setting as they can maintain food-preserving temperatures for up to two days after power has been lost. Open the refrigerator and freezer only when necessary to maintain food preserving temperatures for as long as possible. Use dry ice in the freezer if it is available. After placing the dry ice into the freezer, cover the freezer with blankets, quilts or some other insulating covering. Be sure the covering does not obstruct any air ventilation openings as the power may go off unexpectedly and ventilation in the freezer will be needed. It will also help to put crumpled newspapers between the freezer and the covering. Avoid contacting the dry ice with skin. Use paper or gloves in handling the dry ice to avoid a severe burn.
If Freezer Stops Working
If freezer stops working, the food in the freezer will stay frozen depending on:
- the amount of food in the freezer. A full freezer will stay cold many hours longer than a freezer only one-quarter full.
- the type of food in the freezer. A freezer full of meat will not warm up as fast as a freezer full of baked food.
- the temperature of the food. The colder the food, the longer it will stay frozen.
- the quality of the freezer. A well-insulated freezer will keep food frozen much longer than one with little insulation.
- the size of the freezer. The larger the freezer, the longer the food will stay frozen.
The following steps should be taken in the event the freezer stops working:
- Estimate how long the power will be off to determine how long the food will stay frozen. With the freezer closed, the food in a fully loaded freezer will usually stay frozen two (2) days. If the food is in a freezer with less than half a load, it will probably not stay frozen for more than a day.
- If arrangements have been made in advance to have the food stored in a locker plant, call the plant to see if it is operating. If the plant is operating and it is possible to transport the food to the plant, make sure the food is wrapped in newspaper and blankets or placed in an insulated container before transporting it to the plant to prevent it from thawing.
If the food is stored in the freezer at home, refreeze the food quickly by turning the temperature control on the freezer to the coldest setting once it is operating again. Clean the freezer before refilling it. Place the warmer packages against the refrigerated surface if possible, but stack them so air can circulate around them. After the food is well frozen, turn the temperature control to its usual setting. If the freezer is too full, move some of the colder packages to the refrigerator, and return them to the freezer gradually.
Thawing and Refreezing:
- Foods that have been frozen and thawed require the same care as foods that have never been frozen. Use refrozen food as soon as possible.
- Partial thawing and refreezing does reduce the quality of foods, particularly fruits, vegetables and prepared foods. Red meats are affected less than many other foods by partial thawing and refreezing. Food that has thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or if it is still cold - about 40 degrees Fahrenheit - and has been at this temperature no longer than one or two days after thawing.
- Thawed fruits can be refrozen if they still taste and smell good. Fruits usually ferment when they start to spoil. A small amount of fermentation will not make fruits dangerous to eat; however, it may spoil their flavor.
- Care should be taken in determining whether or not thawed meat and poultry should be refrozen. Meats and poultry become unsafe to eat when they start to spoil. Therefore, each package of food should be examined before determining whether or not it should be refrozen. If the color or odor of the thawed food is poor or questionable, dispose of it, as it may be dangerous to eat.
- Do not use melted ice cream.
- If refreezing the thawed food is not possible, canning it may be the only practical solution to saving most, if not all, of it.
Tracking a Storm
Those of us who live along the Florida Gulf Coast should track every Atlantic hurricane or tropical storm. Many times, we will need to begin making preparations before the storm ever enters the Gulf of Mexico. When tracking a storm, remember that a hurricane is not just a point on a map. Usually the coordinates of the center of the storm are given so that you can track it on your map, however, hurricanes can have tropical storm force winds over 200 miles from that center and even hurricane force winds over 75 or 100 miles from the center. We must remember that hurricane forecasting is not an exact science and they don't always go where predicted.
Tropical Storm Watch
Issued when tropical storm conditions are possible in the specified watch area, usually within 36 hours.
Tropical Storm Warning
Issued when tropical storm conditions are expected in the specified warning area, usually within 24 hours.
Issued when hurricane conditions are possible in the specified watch area, usually within 36 hours. During a hurricane watch, be prepared to take immediate action to protect your family and property in case a hurricane warning is issued.
Issued when hurricane conditions are expected in the specified warning area, usually within 24 hours. Storm preparations should be completed and evacuation under way.