Where the Wind Blows, Stormy Weather!

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haveuheard storm uf

Florida Weather = Storm

Having grown up in South Florida, I have made it through more than 45 Hurricane seasons. Yikes! But with that much hurricane preparedness under my belt, I can say with great certainty that preparation, not panic, is crucial.

I will admit that some of my personal preparations included being the host of many a Hurricane Party. Family and friends who lived in evacuation zones brought food and supplies along with their evacuating selves. Hurricane parties have not been all that uncommon throughout the years, especially in South Florida. They served as a distraction for our children and, truth be told, for the adults too. The celebration of being prepared together certainly eased the concerns over why we were making those preparations. But 2020 has changed all that although, in some ways, our “hunkering down” has pre-prepped us for the storm season. (Got toilet paper?)

Still, hurricanes — and the potential for a direct hit — are frightening. The 24-hour weather broadcasts do very little to help keep anxiety at bay. After South Florida took significant hits from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and  Hurricane Wilma in 2005, my neighbors and I all became proficient in a whole new language. Steering winds, cone of uncertainty, El Nino, storm surge, wind shear, and wind gusts are just a drop in the new-lingo bucket.

Preparation, Not Panic

But, when enough time passes with more major Hurricane warnings than hits, even we Floridians become complacent about being prepared. That complacency doesn’t usually extend to those parents who have Gators here from out of state, though. With the first mention of a named storm or hurricane heading towards Florida, the beginnings of (justifiable) panic at an unfamiliar danger sets in. When the local, state, and even national news about a potential storm starts dominating the airwaves well in advance of a storm’s possible arrival, those parents’ concerns go into overdrive. What they don’t know is that their students are busy distracting themselves with Jim Cantore memes!

The level of panic for experienced, in-state residents is directly correlated to the category of the storm being forecast. Floridians seem to look at  Cat 1 with almost an indifference. This may or may not be healthy when contemplating top wind speeds of 95 miles per hour, yet, that’s a Floridian for you. Get to the mention of a Cat 3 storm or higher, however, and nerves start frazzling, palms begin sweating, and everyone goes into advanced preparation mode. (This is when shelves at grocery and hardware stores start looking as if Marie Kondo had her decluttering way with them.) Add the fact that we are not with our kids to face this looming threat of a storm together, and an emotional tsunami begins to swell as well (pun entirely intended).

It was just last year that a Hurricane was threatening much of the state. University officials went into their well-practiced planning mode. After my many years with students on the Gainesville campus, I have no doubt that UF will be there — before, during, and after any storm, or even the threat of one– for all our students.

Important Storm Info

  • Hurricane Season officially begins June 1st and ends on December 1st.
  • Florida gets weather — be it a bad rain or thunderstorm, a tropical storm, or a full-on hurricane. Just keep in-case-of-power-loss supplies on hand all the time; they won’t go to waste. Include a flashlight and batteries, bottled water (purchased or just bottled yourself), and some non-perishable foods to get through a minimum of three days. Think tuna fish, peanut butter, protein bars, and the like.
  • Make sure you stock up on water in advance of a storm. Using your own containers or plastic bags works as well as purchasing bottled water. Freezing some of it will even help the contents of your freezer stay frozen a bit longer if you lose power.

Batteries, Batteries, Batteries

  • Fully charge and back up your computers and phones before the storm starts. Have a portable (or solar) charger or charged battery back up for your cell phone. Unplug all entertainment.
  • If your student has a vehicle that operates on gasoline, they should fill up. Waiting until the day before a potential storm is due to hit is NOT advisable. The lines are very long and some gas stations actually run out of fuel. Remind them to set the emergency brake when parking their vehicle before taking shelter from the storm. Another note: a full tank of gas can also allow them to run their vehicle long enough to power a cell phone that can’t be recharged when the electricity is out.
  • ATMs do not operate when there are electrical outages. If a potential storm is approaching, make sure they take out cash in advance.
  • Have a battery-operated radio (and batteries for that radio). You can usually purchase these radios for $10-$20 or so. When we lose power, we have everyone turn off their cell phones to conserve battery life. Each person takes a turn keeping their phone on, and we continue this rotation until all power for all cell phones has been used up. Having a radio allowed us to listen to emergency alerts (for tornado warnings in the area, etc.) without using up our phone charge to hear this information.
  • Manual can opener (to open those non-perishable cans of food).
  • Have a battery-operated fan (and batteries for that fan). For the days that follow without power, it gets awfully hot inside the house. The fan gives at least a bit of relief.

More Info and Insight…

  • When Hurricane Michael caused a momentary concern for Gainesville, I advised my daughter to get a landline telephone (think the corded ones). That advice isn’t as universally helpful as it used to be, because even those who have access to a landline connection are typically serviced by their cable provider. That requires both electricity and intact cell towers. It never hurts, though, to know if a nearby friend or neighbor has a landline in case they have access.
  • Campus housing is designated as shelters for campus residents. The university will use other campus facilities on an as-needed basis should off-campus students and emergency staff need it. UF takes every precaution to ensure the safety of their students, including keeping them informed.
  • If a storm is approaching Gainesville, please do not advise your student to get on the road and leave if it is the day before — or the day of — the storm. Gainesville will issue evacuation orders with as much advance notice as possible if ever deemed necessary. Clogging up roads is dangerous not only to your student but also to those that are under mandatory evacuation orders. It could leave them all stranded and out in the elements they were trying to escape at the worst possible time.
  • Should your student (or you) have other concerns, they should contact umatter@ufl.edu.

And…Important Storm Info Links

Additional information on UF’s storm preparedness can be found below. Go ahead and bookmark them in advance so you have them when and if you need them.

University of Florida web pages:

None of us can predict the path of a storm or its potential damage. However, towns and cities centrally located in Florida do not typically take a direct hit. Remember, these storms are coming off the Atlantic or the Gulf.  Depending upon the size of the storm, the damage they inflict can still be felt at quite a distance, so being prepared and informed is the only way to ride one out.

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2020-09-01T13:47:29-04:002 Comments


  1. Debra Lerman July 9, 2019 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Great advise for both Floridians and out of state students/parents!

    • Janice Weinsoff July 10, 2019 at 8:42 am - Reply

      Thank you, Debra. We would love for you to share our website with friends who have students at any of our 7 universities. They are all written by parents who have had and/or currently have students at the school as well as our interns.

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