Storm season start prompts preparations

Mutual aid responding to a twice-broken telephone pole on Millhopper Road.
Mutual aid responding to a twice-broken telephone pole on Millhopper Road.
Suzette Cook/City of Gainesville

The 2023 hurricane season officially began on June 1, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts a range of 12 to 17 named storms in the Atlantic.  

NOAA expects as many as four of these to develop into major hurricanes. See the list of names for 2023 and beyond on the NOAA website.

Though Alachua County is far enough inland to receive storms after they have shed some force, residents should still be prepared for effects with a wide range of severity. 

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For individuals and families, disaster kits are good to have on hand. Paired with flood and hurricane evacuation plans, disaster kits containing emergency supplies and personal documents create a baseline of preparedness. 

Alachua County Emergency Management provides this list to start a disaster kit in its All-Hazards Preparedness Guide: 

  • Water (one gallon per person for at least 5 days) 
  • Food (non-perishable, at least a 5-day supply) 
  • Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio plus a NOAA weather radio with tone alert 
  • Flashlight (with extra batteries) 
  • First Aid Kit 
  • Manual can opener for food (if the kit contains canned food) 
  • Local and evacuation maps 
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation 
  • Prescription drugs (two-week supply) and copies of prescriptions 
  • Store your information, such as passports, driver’s licenses, insurance and social security cards, birth and marriage certificates, in water-proof bags. 

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) recommends that people try to understand their local risks, and the integrity of their own house and property.  

People can be better prepared for hurricane season by checking the integrity of their roofs, installing impact-resistant window protection, and trimming trees to reduce wind-borne debris. 

While individuals prepare for hurricane season, county and city governments must also set themselves up to maintain functionality and safety. 

Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU) engineering staff and their Alachua County counterparts have been cooperating to update floodwater mitigation plans and improve the wastewater collection system. 

The city of Gainesville’s solid waste division also works with the county to identify debris sites before named storms come anywhere near Florida. In the aftermath of a storm, these sites act as collection sites for fallen tree limbs and other yard waste. From these sites, the debris can be sent to be recycled as mulch. 

The Gainesville Public Works Department prepares for hurricane season by stockpiling 300 cubic yards of sand, ready to be used by any crews or local residents who need it. Last September, this sand was used to fill 32,000 sandbags for residents in preparation for Tropical Storm Ian. 

“We make sandbags available under two conditions,” Brian Singleton, Gainesville’s public works director, said in a press release. “One, when a local state of emergency has been declared – and two, when a storm is forecast to bring sustained rainfall and regional flooding – but not if we’re only expecting lots of wind.” 

When these conditions are met, the city provides a maximum of 10 sandbags per vehicle, intended to be placed in front of entry doors and garage doors to hold back storm waters. 

The city of Gainesville and Samantha Murray of UF/IFAS contributed to this story. 

Graphic by Camille Broadway Ways to take advantage of the disaster preparedness tax holiday

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