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Important answers

By Times Staff
Published April 17, 2005

Q: When a hurricane passes through, is it true I should open the windows on the side of my house that faces the wind?

No. Hurricane winds swirl from all directions and exert both pressure and suction. If wind gets into your home, it will seek a way out, blowing out a roof or ceiling, collapsing a gable end or a garage door. Your goal is to keep the wind out, period.

Q: Does taping my windows with masking or duct tape help?

No. It doesn't keep your windows from breaking and it just takes time from other, more useful tasks as you prepare your home.

What it will do is leave your window with a gooky residue that's difficult to scrape off. You don't need another cleanup chore once the storm passes.

Q: Is it true that the county will send someone to evacuate me?

As we learned last summer, when the storm is bearing down on us, county emergency operations personnel will decline to send out rescue teams - "first responders" - into a life-threatening storm. Lesson to learn: Evacuate when you're told to. The harder it is for you to leave (if you are elderly, mobility-impaired or require complicated medical equipment), the sooner you should evacuate.

Q: Can I reuse the sandbags I got last hurricane season?

Generally, yes. Store them in a dry spot indoors, perhaps in a shed or garage. The bags may deteriorate or become moldy if exposed to sun, water and insects.

Q: How long can I keep bottled water? I still have some I got last summer.

That depends on who bottled it. If you refilled a water bottle from the office cooler or the home tap, it is best consumed within two weeks if refrigerated or within a day if it has been standing at room temperature. If it was bottled commercially, it is good indefinitely, even if there is an expiration date on the bottle. Some states require expiration dates on all packaged foods, so some water bottlers put them on all their bottles, even those shipped to states that don't require them.

Q: What are the hurricane standards for new homes built in the Tampa Bay area today?

Florida code as of 2002 requires that buildings must be designed to withstand pressure differentials that occur when windows and doors are pierced by debris, or that all exterior glass windows and doors be made of shatter-resistant glass or be protected by shutters.

On the barrier islands of Pinellas County the wind standard is 130 mph; in the rest of the county it is 123 mph. Hillsborough is 110 mph except for small areas near Odessa and Ruskin, where it is 120 mph. All of Citrus County is 110 mph. Hernando is 120 mph on the west side, 110 mph on the east side. Pasco zones range from 110 mph on the east side of the county to 124 mph on the west.

Q: Is there any place in a house or apartment that's safer than others for valuables?

The dishwasher is a good place if you don't have a personal safe. Dishwashers are anchored to cabinets and plumbing, they are waterproof and they have doors that lock.

Q: Why are hurricanes named?

Tropical cyclones - the proper name for hurricanes - are named to provide ease of communication between forecasters and the public. The storms often last a week or longer, and more than one can occur at the same time in the same area. The first use of a proper name for a tropical cyclone was by an Australian forecaster, who named tropical cyclones after politicians he didn't like. The weatherman could publicly describe a politician as "causing great distress" or "wandering aimlessly about the Pacific." During World War II, tropical cyclones were given women's names by U.S. Army Air Forces and Navy meteorologists, and were named after meteorologists' girlfriends or wives. From 1950 to 1952, tropical cyclones of the North Atlantic Ocean were identified by the phonetic alphabet, such as Able, Baker or Charlie, but in 1953 the U.S. Weather Bureau switched to women's names. Gender parity didn't come until 1979, when the World Meteorological Organization and the U.S. National Weather Service switched to a list of names that included men's names.

Q: What will hurricanes be named in 2005?

Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Dennis, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irene, Jose, Katrina, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rita, Stan, Tammy, Vince, and Wilma.

Q: What can I do if my car is damaged?

Car damage is generally covered by auto insurance, even if the house also is damaged. You will need to make two claims, but they can be made at the same time if you have the same company for both policies. If the inside of the car is flooded, don't try to start it. Cover broken windows. List all damaged or lost valuables.

Q: What does renter's insurance cover?

Renter's insurance generally covers contents and living expenses if your apartment or house is no longer livable. (Your lease might not require your landlord to find you alternate housing.)

Q: What does homeowner's insurance cover?

Homeowner's insurance generally covers damage to the building and contents, plus living expenses until your dwelling is livable again.

Q: How should I prepare my computer when a hurricane is threatening?

Important data should be backed up, and the discs stored in a secure location. If you leave the house, unplug the computer, disconnect phone and cable lines and make sure equipment such as printers, scanners and other peripherals that are attached to the computer also are disconnected. If the computer is on the floor and you're in flood-prone area, it's probably best to put it on a table or other elevated space.

[Last modified April 14, 2005, 10:55:09]

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