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Hurricanes: Fact vs. Myth

True or false:

n Duct taping windows gives protection from flying glass.

n All hurricanes come from West Africa, giving us enough notice.

n Your pooch and kitty-cat can fend for themselves if you evacuate.

If you said true to any of the above, you’ve got another thing coming.

With another hurricane season upon us, experts warn the citizenry about ill-considered advice:

Knowing the difference between myth and fact may save you and your property.

Take it from Manatee County Emergency Management.

Myth: Crisscrossing windows with masking or duct tape provides protection from flying glass.

Fact: Tape will not save your windows. Nor protect anything else in your home or business.

Myth: During the height of the storm, emergency personnel will be able to come and save you.

Fact: Once winds reach a sustained 45 mph, any high profile vehicles — ambulances, fire trucks, etc. — will be taken off the road until after the high winds subside. You can still call 911, but you’ll be put on a life safety priority list.

Myth: There will be plenty of free food, water and ice after power is restored.

Fact: The government will set up points of distribution, but only in areas without electrical power. Government won’t compete with private industry that is up and running — i.e. Publix, Walmart, etc.

Myth: Shelters will provide everything you need.

Fact: They’ll provide a safer place to be, along with food and water. That’s it. People need to bring their own bedding, whatever comfort items they want — books, magazines, lawn chairs. As for computers, Game Boys, iPods, if they’re battery-operated, and ear phones, fine. But you can’t plug in to the shelter’s wall outlets because the shelters must conserve power. And there aren’t that many outlets, anyway.

Myth: Most people are killed by hurricane winds and the damage they cause.

Fact: Nine out of 10 hurricane deaths are from inland flooding. Water is your biggest threat, and that includes the surge after-effects. With the ground saturated, water won’t drain off as quickly.

Myth: Pets will be safe at home and can take care of themselves when need be.

Fact: No. If you evacuate, take your pets. Pets running around loose after a storm are stressed, confused and scared. You may never be reunited. They could become a health hazard. Manatee County does have two pet-friendly shelters. Some hotels, too. You have to plan ahead.

Myth: Open windows on your home on the side away from the storm.

Fact: Wind can come from all directions during a hurricane.

Myth: All hurricanes form off the coast of West Africa, therefore giving us about a week’s notice.

Fact: Hurricanes also form in the Gulf of Mexico and just beyond our doorstep in the Caribbean basin, within 48 hours. Hurricanes do not need a week to develop a head of steam. They can intensify rapidly and without warning within the vicinity of Florida. Katrina formed in the Bahamas. A tropical wave can form into a Category 4 hurricane with 48 hours.

Myth: Generators do not interfere with commercial power lines.

Fact: When homeowners use a generator in their homes, it can often re-energize an electrical line that’s being worked on, and back-feed into neighborhood powerlines, becoming a hazard for electrical repair workers.

Myth: As long as I leave 48 hours before the storm, I’ve got plenty of time to get to safety.

Fact: Depending on evacuation of the Tampa Bay area and southwest Florida, it may take 60 or more hours of highway driving to be clear of the area. In some cases, you may have to leave earlier than 48 hours.

Myth: I have to go at least 100 miles inland to escape the storm.

Fact: The reality is, 10 or 20 miles inland is usually sufficient to escape the potential storm surge and find available shelter. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean you can escape hurricane force winds 10 miles or even 100 miles away. Charley showed us that hurricanes can cut across the state and pack devastating winds.

Myth: Most businesses are able to reopen after a major disaster.

Fact: Eight out of 10 small businesses fail to reopen. Walmart will recover, but not some mom and pops. Not without a plan they won’t.

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