Hurricane season kicks off with preparedness expo in St. Pete

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Last Thursday night, St. Petersburg Fire Rescue hosted a Hurricane Preparedness Expo to kick off this year’s Atlantic Hurricane Season. Residents picked up supplies and learned more about how they can be ready for worst-case scenario.

With clouds already looming overhead on Day 1 of the Hurricane season, residents lined up in their cars to get free supplies to protect against possible flooding in the coming months. Becca Gephart is with City of St. Pete Stormwater. She was helping a team load hundreds of free sandbags into vehicles.

“We also hand out empty sandbags for those that have some stuff going on. You know we just had a moped come through.”

Most residents of the low-income neighborhood in South St. Petersburg were glad to have access to these resources at their local recreation center. After devastating hurricanes rocked our region in recent years, St. Petersburg Emergency Manager Amber Boulding said their community partners want to make sure residents are properly equipped.

“How to build a plan, how to make sure that you have somewhere to go, who to talk to, other support for social services. We’re trying to get that in a one stop shop for folks to include sandbags!”

Hurricane prep is especially hard for people with low incomes, or fewer resources. Jessica Starks is with 211, which links communities to various programs if they’re in financial crisis.

“And it can help with anything from food assistance, to housing to rent assistance, utilities. Anything that anybody could need for day to day living and necessities, we can assist them with.”

She said during a storm is when they start gearing up.

“Other places start shutting down, we start compiling all those extra resources that start getting put out on a temporary basis, from FEMA to state to you know, local, temporary things. We start compiling those; what’s available out there for the community. Our crisis line stays open, as long as it’s physically possible and feasible with the infrastructure to run to answer those and it would roll over to the backup centers if for some reason ours were to go down.”

Residents can text 211 for help with mental health too, or they can even text 911 in the case of an emergency. Emergency Management officials urge residents to hide from the wind, run from the water, and avoid storm surge at all costs by getting to higher ground in the event of a flood. More resources about your flood zone, things to keep in your hurricane kit, and more can be found on our website at WMNF.ORG and