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Florida Weather = Storm
Having grown up in South Florida, I have gone through more than 45 Hurricane seasons. With many hurricane preparations under my belt and many, many decades living in a Hurricane prone area, I can say that preparation, not panic, is crucial.
Some of my personal preparations included being the host of many a Hurricane Party where family and friends who lived in evacuation zones brought food and supplies along with their evacuating selves. Hurricane parties are, honestly, not uncommon in South Florida. They serve as a distraction for our children and, truth be told, for the adults too. Hurricanes, and the potential for a direct hit, are frightening. The 24-hour 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.
But, like most Floridians, when enough time passes with more major Hurricane warnings than hits, we become complacent about being prepared. But for those parents who have Gators here from out of state, the first mention of a named storm or hurricane possibly heading our way sends them into the beginnings of justifiable panic at an unfamiliar danger. When the news about a potential storm starts dominating the airwaves while still well in advance of a storm’s arrival (which they assuredly do in Florida, but they also make national news, too), 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 storm being forecast. Floridians seem to look at Cat 1 with almost an indifference…which 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 (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.
So here is some important information to remember:
- Hurricane Season officially begins June 1st and ends on December 1st.
- Florida gets weather — be it a bad rain/thunderstorm, tropical storm, or a legitimate hurricane — and keeping certain supplies on hand is always recommended. These 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.
- 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.
- Make sure computers and phones are fully charged and backed up. Have a portable 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 as the lines are very long and some gas stations run out of fuel. They should also set the emergency brake when parking their vehicle before taking shelter from the storm.
- ATMs do not operate when there are electrical outages so if a potential storm is approaching; make sure they take out cash in advance.
- Have a battery-operated radio (and batteries for said radio). These can be purchased for $10 or less. After losing power, we had everyone turn off their cell phones to conserve its battery life except for one person and continued a rotation until all power for all cell phones had been used up. Having a radio allowed us to listen to emergency alerts (tornado warnings in the area) without using up our phones to hear this information.
- Manual can opener (to open those non-perishable cans of food)
- Have a battery-operated fan (and batteries for said fan). For the days that follow without power, it gets awfully hot inside the house. The fan gave us at least a bit of relief.
- When Hurricane Michael caused a momentary concern for Gainesville, even as a person who has lived in Florida for well over 40 years, I advised my daughter to get a landline telephone (think the corded ones) as those will often work when electricity is down and cell phone service is interrupted. That is because the power to the phone comes from the phone lines from the power companies which have battery backup and backup generators that can continue for over a week during a power outage. Many of the phone lines are underground, preventing them from being damaged during a storm.
- 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 day of the storm. Gainesville will issue evacuation orders with as much advance notice as possible if ever deemed necessary, but 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 — 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
UF Emergency Hotline: 1-866-UF FACTS
Follow UF Alert on Twitter
Residence Halls: Tropical Weather and Other Emergency Preparedness
National Weather Service Briefing Updates
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 these storms can cause can still be felt quite a distance away, so being prepared and informed is the only way to ride one out.