"COVID-19 is here this year, and it's very important that you know where you're going and how you're going to get there."By Price McKeon

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Preparing for hurricane looks a little different this year as COVID-19 continues to spread in the community. CW44’s, Price McKeon spoke with Hillsborough County officials who help remind residents how to stay prepared for a hurricane while in the middle of a pandemic.

Hillsborough County’s Emergency Management Director, Tim Dudley says, with COVID-19 here it’s important to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there if evacuations occur. “Every year we say, ‘Have a plan,’ but it’s more important than ever that you have a good evacuation plan.

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“We want you to evacuate tens of miles, not hundreds of miles.” 

Dudley continued, “You should also know your zone. You have to know what evacuation zone you’re in, in the event, when and if we call an evacuation. In your disaster kit you should have food, water, medication and any important documents on a thumb drive.” This year, be sure to add hand sanitizer, wipes and masks. “You don’t want to wait to the last minute, especially with COVID-19.”

“It’s not a resort, it’s a last resort.”

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Shelters shouldn’t be your go-to. The pandemic has created some changes to traditional shelter setups of years passed. “We’ll be adding extra shelters [in the county] so we can practice social-distancing during an evacuation scenario,” says Dudley.

Lawn Maintenance Before The Storm 

The county’s code enforcement stresses that before storm, it is important to cut the grass and clean up your yard. “Believe it or not, taking care of those minor things is also a form of storm prep because those accumulations turn into airborne projectiles if there’s a wind event,” says Jon-Paul Lavandeira, and emphasized that overgrown grass can lead to other issues. “It behooves the people to prepare in the simplest of ways, but that [lawn prep] makes a big difference.”

Dudley ask residents to visit Hillsborough County’s website when making your specific plans. “You will find all the comprehensive information you need to know for preparing your home, preparing your family and preparing your business – as well as your pets.”

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Hurricane season runs through November.