Hurricane Ian destruction, home destroyed on Fort Myers Beach

Remember Ian? Be Ready for Hurricane Season

Residents are encouraged to determine risk and prepare now

Seven months ago, Hurricane Ian slammed into Lee County with a storm surge of over 10 feet and winds of 150 miles per hour. Homes washed away, businesses were destroyed, and more than 70 people died in Lee alone.

In total, the storm claimed the lives of nearly 150 people in 19 Florida counties, and destruction was immense. Officials estimate a five-year recovery period for hard-hit areas.

Now think about this: If Ian's path had veered slightly north, Hillsborough County would have been Lee County, and the Tampa Bay region would most likely have realized the fate of Fort Myers.

Workers walking along piles of debris near Estero Blvd Fort Meyers Beach, Florida
Workers walking along piles of debris near Estero Blvd Fort Meyers Beach, Florida

With Ian's devastation still visible, and recovery ongoing, June 1 marks the beginning of the 2023 hurricane season. Hillsborough County's Office of Emergency Management is prepared to help keep residents safe.

This month, get ready with Hillsborough County's Top 10 preparedness tips:

  1. Determine your risk. An important first step for all residents is to determine risk, as hurricanes are not just coastal disasters. The impacts of wind and water can be felt for hundreds of miles, and knowing a location's vulnerability is vital.

  2. Understand evacuation zones and develop an evacuation plan. Hillsborough County has multiple evacuation zones. Flood zones and evacuation zones are not the same. For example, some areas that are not in a hurricane evacuation zone are prone to flooding; therefore, evacuation becomes necessary. Do you know your flood zone and evacuation zone? Now is the time to  look them up.

  3. Assemble an evacuation kit. Learn how to pack for any scenario. Remember to account for all family members, especially those with special needs, and pets. Have all of the vital supplies ready when authorities say it's time to go.

  4. Sign up for HCFL Alert, Hillsborough County's official mass notification system. HCFL Alert is designed to keep you informed about local emergencies, evacuation notices and urgent alerts, along with everyday events and County news that's important to you.

  5. Visit Hillsborough County's Stay Safe page. It has everything residents and families need to know about disaster preparedness. Residents can find their evacuation and flood zones, learn how to prepare their homes, pack a disaster kit, and even download the Disaster Guide.

  6. Fortify your surroundings and pack a "go" bag. Before hurricane season officially begins, ensure windows and doors are secure, trees are trimmed, and gutters are cleaned. Have a supply of plywood, steel, or aluminum panels ready to go. Pack a go bag with medication and supplies, and always have gas tanks at least half full in case evacuation orders are issued.

  7. Have a written plan. Now is the time to write down a hurricane plan. Where is your evacuation destination or destinations? What are the most important phone numbers to have at the ready? Where will supplies be stored? Have a pet? Which shelters are pet friendly? Have a plan A, B, and C.

  8. Stay protected during and after storms. When a storm is active, stay inside and away from windows. When the storm has passed and it is safe to go outside, stay away from downed power lines. Avoid walking or driving through flooded areas. And if using a generator, ensure that it is 20 or more feet away from your home.

  9. Get an insurance check-up. Now is a good time to call insurance companies and verify that your policies are up to date, coverage is sufficient, and there are no surprises. Homeowner's and renter's insurance policies do not cover flooding; a separate policy will be needed.

  10. Help your neighbors. Collect supplies needed before a storm, assist with evacuating if ordered, and check on them after conditions are deemed safe. Hurricane season is an important time to be a good neighbor.

Get Connected. Stay Alert.

Top Photo Information: Hurricane Ian destruction, home destroyed on Fort Myers Beach


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