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What to Do When a Hurricane Approaches

An expert shares advice on what to do in the days and hours leading up to a storm.

Forecasting the path of a hurricane is no simple matter. Many factors can affect the probable course, even at the last minute.

That’s why meteorologists use a forecast cone to outline areas that are in a probable strike zone. Although forecasts are often uncertain, it's important to pay attention to the cone, Pinellas County spokesman Thomas Iovino says.

Here’s what Iovino recommends if your home falls inside the forecast cone as a storm approaches.

When a Storm Is Forming

Even when a storm is a week or more away and there’s no clearly defined path, Iovino said it’s a good time to:

  • Check your plan and make sure things are prepared.

“Use that time wisely,” he said.

Five Days Away

If the Tampa Bay area is in the 5-day cone, it’s time to:

  • Know your .
  • Put important papers together in a safe, waterproof place.
  • Make or double-check arrangements for and/or .
  • Decide where to go and where to stay if the storm does come our way. Just having a city as a destination isn't good enough, Iovino said.

Three Days Away

  • Check your again.
  • Buy any special supplies that are needed for infants, pets or special-needs family members.
  • If your area has to be evacuated, secure a place to stay. If it’s a hotel, put a deposit down on the room, but check into refund policies in case you don’t have to go.

48 Hours Away

  • Fill up gas tanks.
  • Get cash in small bills because ATMs may not work after a storm.
  • Fill up containers with water. Consider using resealable bags, filling them three-quarters of the way up and tossing them in the freezer. “Have your water do double duty,” Iovino said.
  • Bring in yard furniture, grills and other items that might blow away.
  • Shutter windows.

36 Hours Away

  • Pay attention for evacuation warnings, and continue to monitor storm progress.
  • “Complete all your final preparations and make sure you can evacuate if you have to,” Iovino said. “The earlier you leave, the better — (there’s) less traffic and you’ll be someplace safer sooner.”

For more tips on storm preparedness, just click on the "2012 Hurricane Guide" link below, or visit Pinellas County Emergency Management online.

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