Florida residents urged to prepare now for upcoming hurricane season

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Tampa's new mayor, Jane Castor, summed up the start of hurricane season in a brief statement:
“The predictions are not rosy for this hurricane season," Castor said.

And with the season beginning June 1, Castor and other Tampa officials say now is the time to prepare.

“June for the Tampa Bay area is an active time for the year. June, and usually the September, October time period," said Meteorologist Brian Lamarre with the National Weather Service for Tampa.

You can start by taking advantage of the tax-free holiday for hurricane preparation, which runs from May 31 to June 6. 

“Items that are tax-free include batteries, weather radios, which are very important, and flashlights, ice chests," said Tampa Fire Chief Nick LoCicero.

In the past, stocking up on 72 hours of food and supplies was enough, but officials say that's not the case anymore.

“Storms recently have proven that it’s not a bad idea at all, and we strongly suggest that you have seven days of food," said LoCicero. "When you speak of power outages, logistics, road clearing, you can’t get to the store because it might be impacted.”

And when you’re trying to get back home, make sure you have your hurricane hang tag.

"It's just a simple color-coded tag that hangs from the rearview mirror that allows police and emergency management know who belongs in that neighborhood," Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said. "It makes it faster for them to get in."

Each storm creates its own set of problems. Hurricane Irma struck Florida in 2017, causing one of the largest power outages in the nation's history. When Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle last year, scores of cell towers were destroyed. 

“That was the big thing we took out of Michael up north, was they had no way of communicating," said Dugan.

The county says they’re prepared for the worst with portable cell towers, also called “cell-on-wings” or COWs, to restore cell service as quickly as possible.