I'm new to Florida and unfamiliar with hurricane season. How do I safely prepare for any storms that may pass over my USF apartment?

Located in the balmy city of Tampa, the University of South Florida is mostly known for its paradise-like beaches and warm weather, but that isn't always the case. Most Floridians know that June 1 marks the first day of hurricane season, which means all eyes are on the Atlantic Ocean until the end of November. For those who have recently relocated to apartments near USF and are unfamiliar with hurricane preparedness, this article may serve as a quick guide for the upcoming hurricane season. 

Before taking any drastic measures like evacuation, make sure to prepare your USF apartment and monitor weather reports for the storm coming your way. Hurricane projections become accurate as the hurricane approaches so preparing needs to begin beforehand.

Prepare Your Hurricane Kit & Stock Up on Essentials

Many people have a hard time deciding when they should go to the stores and stock up on their hurricane survival supplies. If you have ever seen a news coverage during the upcoming days of a hurricane, you are likely familiar with the pictures of empty grocery stores and long lines of cars waiting for gas. The number one rule is that preparedness always begins before the season starts.  As June approaches, make sure you have your hurricane kit ready to go, which should include extra batteries, flashlights, battery-powered radios, portable chargers, a first-aid kit, and a waterproof document holder. 

A week before the projected landfall of a storm, make sure to stock up on non-perishable foods and gallons of water. Gather enough food and water for seven days of survival, as suggested in the USF Hurricane Preparedness guide. You can also keep an eye on canceled classes by subscribing to the University of South Florida alert system. 

Park Your Car Safely Before a Storm

A few days before the hurricane hits, you'll want to beat the rush to the gas station to make sure you're able to fill up your vehicle. Do a quick check to ensure your car is filled up on oil and ready to go in case of an emergency evacuation.

Make sure to speak with the leasing office about where you can park your car, so it is safe and accessible to you after the storm. If your community has a parking garage, try your best to park inside the garage as that's the safest place for your car to be. Otherwise, avoid parking by trees or light poles, and attempt to park close to a building which can partially protect your car from high winds.

Preparing Your USF Apartment for a Storm

Consider filling a few buckets with water for hand washing, refilling the toilets, etc. as you may not have running water for a few days after the storm. If your USF apartment has a bathtub, consider filling it up with water as well.

If you have a stocked fridge and you're concerned about losing power during the storm, there are a couple of tricks. First of all, consider placing a glass of water in the freezer. Once it's fully frozen, place a penny on top of the ice. This way, if you lose power, the ice will melt and the penny will sink to the bottom of the cup, indicating that your food has gone bad & needs tossed. Additionally, consider filling some plastic bags up with ice or purchasing ice blocks so if you do lose power, you can store some perishable food at least for some period of time in a cooler.

Finally, make sure to remove all items from balconies and patios as they can fly away and become dangerous debris. If you have a bicycle or scooter, consider bringing it inside your apartment as well. 

As you settle in or get ready to evacuate, unplug all electronics and remove valuable items away from the windows.

Preparing for Flooding

It is always important to remember that floods are one of the most destructive side effects of a hurricane. Check to see if your off-campus USF apartment is in a flood risk zone and familiarize yourself with the area's evacuation routes. Print a few versions of the evacuation routes and place them in your hurricane kit. Additionally, compile a list of the nearby shelters so that you're prepared in the event you must evacuate.  

No Pet Left Behind

If you own a pet, make sure to prepare for them as well with these helpful tips from Ready. Often enough during hurricanes, many pets are lost and left to fend for themselves during a storm. As you're preparing, double-check that your pet has the right identification tag on their collar and keep their vaccination documentation in a waterproof document holder. In terms of supplies, make sure to have enough food, water, medication, and puppy pee pads. In case of an evacuation, make sure that you have a leash or pet carrier with you. 

During the Hurricane

With preparations out of the way, all you can do is wait out the storm. Try to keep calm while staying alert to any major changes in the weather. Keep away from windows as flying debris can impact at any time. Charge all phones and electronics until hurricane hits. If you are with friends or family, you may want to have some cards and board games on-hand to pass the time. Finally, make sure to keep your hurricane kit packed with a detailed checklist and evacuation plan. 

Hurricanes can be scary, but by preparing ahead of time, you'll be much better equipped to weather the storm ahead. Keep an eye on the tropics this summer and welcome to life as a Floridian.

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