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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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Fair-weather shoppers largely ignore storm safety display

ST. PETERSBURG - Many shoppers at the Home Depot on 22nd Avenue North on Saturday blithely passed by tables set up out front with flashlights, first-aid kits, generators and other emergency supplies recommended for hurricane season. The sun was bright and there was a pleasant breeze. People filled their carts with soil, mulch and plants. The last time a big storm was at hand, the scene was different. "They were lined up from the register all the way back to the middle of the store and halfway down the back aisle," said store employee Mike Clibon.
The Home Depot in north St. Petersburg was one of 700 from New England to the Gulf Coast that hosted hurricane preparedness workshops Saturday. Since the Atlantic hurricane season began June 1, Florida has had typical late-spring, early-summer weather with little threat of a major storm. Tropical Storm Andrea caused some flooding and damage in June. On Saturday, Tropical Storm Dorian appeared to weaken far from land in the Atlantic Ocean. The National Hurricane Center, however, has predicted an unusually active season this year with a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms with sustained winds of 39 mph or stronger. Forecasters anticipate up to 11 of those could become hurricanes. Store associates at Saturday's workshop said now is the time to saw off dangerous tree limbs and make an emergency plan. "We as Americans probably don't do much of that. We're going to wait until afterwards and say, 'Let me clean up,'" said Roger Hutson, the St. Petersburg store's head of windows and doors. An important precaution that many people don't consider is fortifying windows against a storm. The city updated its building code in 2010, putting most of the St. Petersburg area in what's called a "high velocity hurricane zone," meaning new construction should have heavy-duty window frames and impact glass, Hutson said. For those who don't want to retrofit their windows, there are products on the market such as Astroguard - Kevlar-like nylon panels that screw into window panes. The most basic preparation people can make, though, is to gather extra food and water, and make an evacuation plan in case of an emergency, St. Petersburg Fire Department paramedic Richard Pauley said. But many residents forget to make provisions for certain members of the family. "They forget about making considerations for their pets until it's too late," Pauley said. Pets are accepted at select shelters in St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Dunedin, but generally aren't in other places. For more information on hurricane preparedness, visit www.pinellascounty.org/emergency. jboatwright@tampatrib.com 727-215-1277
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