TAMPA, Fla. — The official start of hurricane season is almost here. It begins this Saturday, June 1 and goes through November 30.

  • How to prepare for hurricane season
  • Season runs from June 1 - November 30

Hurricanes bring the risk of strong, damaging winds, storm surge, flooding due to heavy rain, and tornadoes. Are you ready?

The Spectrum Bay News 9 weather team has been out visiting communities in our area to answer your weather questions and to help you prepare for the months ahead.

Meteorologist Juli Marquez hands out Spectrum hurricane supplies at the Auburndale Hurricane Expo in Polk County. (Spectrum Bay News 9)

Here are 10 things you can do to prepare for hurricane season:

1.  Make a plan. Everyone in your family should know what you will do if a hurricane threatens the area. Do you live in an evacuation zone? If so, you could be ordered to leave. So find out your zone and plan where you would go. You don’t need to travel far (remember the clogged interstates before Hurricane Irma?) but you do need to get to higher ground. Ask a relative or friend who lives in a non-evacuation zone if you can stay there in case you have to evacuate your home. If you have special needs, register now for a special needs shelter if you have nowhere else to go. Go to www.baynews9.com/hurricane for an interactive map where you can find hurricane shelter information and evacuation zone information for your county.

2.  Whether you live in an evacuation zone or not, make sure your house is secure. Trim your trees and have a plan on how you will protect your windows and doors. Don’t forget about your garage door, which is the most vulnerable part of the home.  Also, identify outdoor objects that will need to come inside if a hurricane is near. Think of things like potted plants, lawn furniture, and other loose items.

3.  Gather important documents like passports, medical records, and insurance information. Keep them in a waterproof envelope or container.

4.  If you have a pet, can it come with you if you have to evacuate? If you are going to a shelter, find out if it accepts pets. Most do not. Talk to your veterinarian if your pet has medical needs. You will also need to plan for extra pet food and water. Have a carrier and updated shot records with you too.

5.  You need to have enough supplies to last for up to a week after a storm. That means seven days of food, water, and medicine for your family. Our website has a list of things you might need. Print it out or look it up on your cell phone while you’re shopping. If you are overwhelmed, buy what you can now, then get other items on the list the next time you shop.  Take advantage of the Hurricane Supplies Sales Tax Holiday in Florida.  It starts May 31 and runs through June 6.  You can buy hurricane items tax free to add to your kit.  I have not met anyone who has said they have too many flashlights.  But it’s not just flashlights and batteries and radios, some big ticket items also qualify, like portable generators selling for less than $750.  In Hillsborough County, which has the highest sales tax in the state, you could save more than 60 dollars in sales tax for that item alone!  For a list of tax-free items click here: https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/news/2019/05/15/hurricane--school-supplies-tax-holidays-signed-into-law

6.  A cell phone charger can be your lifeline to important information before, during, and after the storm. Your cell phone can give you weather alerts through the Spectrum Bay News 9 app and help you check in with family and friends. There are many cordless chargers now available. Just like flashlights, you can never have too many.

7.  Read your insurance policy and call your insurance agent if you have any questions. It’s best to ask questions now, while the tropics are quiet. You can also ask your agent about purchasing separate flood insurance.

8.  Record video or take pictures of your belongings in each room of your house, your garage, and your patio. If you have receipts from big ticket items you have purchased, like a computer or t.v., keep them with other important documents so you can easily find them if you need them.

9.  Don’t forget your neighbors. Check on elderly neighbors and exchange phone numbers in case of an emergency. If this is your first hurricane season here, ask a neighbor for advice.

10.  Pay attention to the weather every day. Sometimes we track a hurricane for a long time and sometimes they develop rapidly. Don’t be caught off guard. We have our Tropical Update at :49 minutes past the hour, every hour, throughout hurricane season. You will also find updates on our website and social media. Follow us @bn9weather on Twitter and like us @bn9weather on Facebook. The Spectrum Bay News 9 app has our Klystron 9 radar and weather alerts.

Chief Meteorologist Mike Clay greets visitors at the Citrus County All Hazards and Hurricane Expo in Crystal River. (Spectrum Bay News 9)