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FLORIDA STORMS Guide to Understanding and Preparing for Storms

S Sumter Electric Cooperative, Inc.




Protect your family in case of an emergency or natural disaster If your family is like most, they could be anywhere – at work, at school, out shopping or in the car when an emergency occurs. Would all the members of your family know what to do? How would you find each other? Would you know if your children were safe? Disaster may force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. How would you manage if basic services – water, gas, electricity or telephones were cut off? Dangers are all around us every day, not just during storm season. However, if you have a disaster plan for the hurricane season, it will work for you in any emergency situation. Follow these basic steps to develop a contingency plan that will help you and your family get through an emergency situation with as little distress as possible.

If you spend time in Florida

you will soon become accustomed to our almost daily afternoon thunderstorms with severe lightning, as well as tropical storms, with the added possibility of hurricanes and tornadoes. While it’s easy to get used to Florida’s unpredictable summer weather and adjust schedules around the afternoon thundershowers, it’s also easy to become complacent about their dangers. Lightning and the potential damage, or harm, that can come from these storms is very unpredictable. As many have witnessed, these storms can leave disastrous results packing a wallop from flash floods and accompanying tornadoes. Hurricanes and tropical storms must always be taken seriously. Although the weather service has the ability to track and issue warnings for hurricanes with a much wider time frame than other types of storms, these storms can be deadly and inflict serious damage from wind and rain. In fact, the most dangerous part is often the storm surge, or flash flooding, that occurs. Even a tropical storm can cause a deluge of 6 to 12 inches of rain within a few hours time. It is always wise to follow the recommendations issued by the Hurricane Center and weather professionals. Act smart, but don’t overreact. The key is to prepare before the storm comes. If a watch or warning is posted, be ready to take action. If you are asked to evacuate, don’t gamble with your life. Evacuate and be thankful that you can return home safely after the storm. This publication has been prepared to help you plan for the worst, which we hope never comes. However, it is important to prepare for that possibility. It is our intention that you use this as a guide to make your own family disaster preparedness plan. Other resources for information on emergency planning are the National Weather Service, your local emergency management office, or the American Red Cross. Hopefully, this will be another great summer in Florida with very little adverse impact from any storms that come our way and we will be thankful if that is the case.

Gather information. Find out about potential hazards in your area. Learn what type of disasters could occur and how best to respond. Some examples are: hurricanes, tornadoes, flash floods, train wrecks, hazardous chemical spills, a bridge out, a house fire, even a forest fire. Learn your community’s warning signals and evacuation plans.

Sit down with your family to formulate a plan. Discuss scenarios based on each type of situation. Choose a location outside your home where you can meet following an emergency, such as a fire. Select a second place away from your neighborhood where you can meet in case you can’t return home. Next, select an out-of-state friend or family member, as your contact for “family check-ins” – a person everyone could call if the family gets separated. Talk about what to do if advised to evacuate and what to do if you are separated.

Ask questions. Make sure everyone knows meeting places, phone numbers and general safety rules. Conduct drills until you are comfortable that everyone understands the plan.

Practice implementing your plan. Maintain it by discussing and practicing it periodically. Have an “emergency drill” and make sure everyone understands why it is important to follow the plan.

Post emergency telephone numbers. Place them near the phone and make sure everyone knows where to look. Teach children how and when to call 911, or other emergency numbers.

Learn basic safety techniques. Learn CPR and first aid. Teach everyone how to use a fire extinguisher, as well as when and how to shut off water, gas or electricity in the home.

Keep emergency supplies on hand. Keep enough basic supplies to meet your family’s immediate needs for a minimum of three days.

Assemble a disaster supply kit. Gather items you may need in case you are asked to evacuate like prescription drugs and medical supplies. Store these in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers, such as backpacks or duffel bags and keep a smaller supply kit in the trunk of your car. Keep copies of important family documents, insurance, medical information, etc., in a waterproof container.

Use this check list to review your preparations

✔ Review your plan. Take time to review ❏

your emergency plan with your family. Knowing when and what steps to follow will help everyone to stay calm, and not panic, in the event of a real disaster. Whether or not you are together when a storm hits, just knowing what to do will make things go much smoother. Verify that a family member in some other area, or state, is available to be your family contactt for “check-ins.”

✔ Locate ❏

a secure placce in in you o r home. Find an interior roo oom m or or closet where you can go immediaately teelyy if a tornado approaches and keep you ourr supp su pli lies e theere.

✔ Be ❏

prepa reep redd to evacuate. If you are in an n is is isolated, low-lying area ea,, orr liv ive in a mo obi bile le home be ready to le le leav avee fo av f r hiigh gher e er



✔ Stock ❏

up on non-perishables non-perishables. Keep a supply of special dietary foods and water on hand, including personal hygiene products, diapers, formula, or other necessities. Other handy items are: paper plates, plastic utensils, non-electric can opener, an oil-burning lamp, and an extra change of clothes.

❍ Food that won’t spoil – canned, pack-

aged, or sealed up in plastic bags, or containers (get easy-open cans or pack a manual can opener)

❍ One change of clothing and shoes per person

❍ One blanket or sleeping bag per person (include a pillow if one is important to you)



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✔ Pets ❏

and animals. They may not be accept-ed at shelters. Arrange for their safekeeping. f k

✔ Protect ❏

your property against wind. Board large windows and sliding glass doors. Secure any outdoor furniture, garbage cans, or other objects that could become projectiles.

✔ Re ❏ R fi fill lll

✔ Fiill ❏

✔ Sp ❏ Spec ecia iall ne ia need eds. ed s. If so ome meon onee in on i youur ho home me

your vehiclee wi w th gass. Pa Park k youur vehicle in n a pla lacee where r trees ess wil ill no n t fall on it an andd aw away from power lines. your bathtub with water e . If you use electric i ity to supplly your hou ouse sseehoold witth water this can be he help lpful fu ul in n flu lush sh hin ingg to toil illet ets ets in casee off an ex exte t nded ed d pow ower e out er u age.

presccriiptio ion io n me medi di ne dicine n s. s Make coppies of identification, insurance, e and meedical information yo youu mayy neeed ed. deeppeend ndss on lif ifee su ust stainingg mediccal equ q ip i meent tha m hatt operattes e on el elec ectr trric icit ittyy,, make ak ke aarrrang raangem em men nts ts in ad dva vanc nce nc ce fo forr an eme m rgen rggen ncy aallteern nattiv ve po powe werr sour we so our urce c . ce

Now is the best time to plan for an emergency.

Emergency Supply Kit: (one gallon per person per day)


✔ Fill ❏


❍ A seven-day supply of bottled water

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to have on hand include identification, extra cash, a portable phone (or cell phone), a battery-operated radio, flashlights and extra batteries, candles, matches, bottled water, and a first aid kit.


✔ Check your emergency kit. Supplies ❏

ground or more substantial shelter on short notice. Become familiar with evacuation routes. If you need to leave your residence, plan ahead of time where you will go. If you plan to go to a designated shelter, take basic items such as necessary medications, identification and other essential papers, a blanket or sleeping bag, pillow, change of clothes, and quiet toys for the children – like cards, books, and crossword puzzles.


oping storm’s progress by watching weather reports on TV, listening to radio reports, or weather bulletins on a weather monitor.


✔ Stay informed. Keep apprised of a devel❏

Gro u

When a severe storm threatens

❍ A flashlight and extra batteries ❍ Emergency tools, including a batterypowered NOAA weather radio, a portable AM/FM radio, and a cell phone

❍ A first aid kit, including prescrip-

tion medicines which may need to be refilled

❍ Candles, or oil-burning lamp, match-

es, paper plates and plastic eating utensils

❍ Extra set of car keys and house/gate keys

❍ Personal

identification, driver’s license, cash, a credit card and copies of insurance and medical information

❍ Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members (disposable diapers, bottles, etc.)

❍ Miscellaneous items such as a writing

tablet, pens, duct tape, safety pins, etc. (Think of those little things that would make your life easier under the worst of circumstances.)

❍ Occupying-time items such as books, games, playing cards, etc. (If you have to spend hours/days in a shelter, what would you wish you had brought?)

Hurricanes Tropical Cyclones

Tornadoes Nature’s most violent storms

Hurricanes are like giant whirlwinds in which air moves in a large tightening spiral around a center of extreme low pressure, extending outward for miles from the rim of the eye. Winds reach constant speeds of 74 mph or more, and blow in a large spiral around a relatively calm center called the eye of the hurricane. In the Northern Hemisphere, circulation is counterclockwise and winds may gust to more than 200 mph at the center. The entire storm dominates the ocean surface and lower atmosphere over tens of thousands of square miles.

Tornadoes are most likely to occur in the right-front quadrant of a hurricane, although they are also often found elsewhere in the rain bands.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November, although later hurricanes are common. Hurricanes that strike the eastern United States begin as tropical storms. When these disturbances increase in size, speed and intensity, they become full-fledged hurricanes. The eye, like the spiral structure of the storm, is unique to hurricanes. Inside the eye, winds are light and skies are clear or partly cloudy.

Large tornadoes stir up the fastest winds ever found on the surface of the earth, as high as 300 mph reported in rare cases.

This calm is deceptive, bordered as it is by maximum force winds and torrential rains. Many people have been killed, or injured, when the calm eye lured them out of their shelter, only to be caught in the maximum winds at the far side of the eye, where the wind blows in the opposite direction of the leading half of the storm. While hurricane winds do a lot of damage, drowning is the greatest cause of hurricane deaths. As the storm moves across the coastline, it brings huge waves and storm tides of 25 feet or more above normal. The rise may come rapidly, flooding coastal lowlands. Waves and currents erode beaches and barrier islands, undermine structures and wash out highway and railroad beds. The accompanying torrential rains produce sudden flooding as the storm moves inland. As hurricane winds diminish, floods constitute the next greatest threat when widespread rainfall of 6 to 12 inches or more can result in severe flooding. Rains are generally heaviest with slower moving storms. The storms move forward very slowly in the tropics, and may remain almost stationary for short periods of time. Then, as the hurricane moves farther from the equator, its forward speed tends to increase as it is driven by the heat released by condensing water vapor. Once O it moves over land and is cut off from the warm ocean, it begins to lose its strength strength. Dur thunderstorms, conDuring sider turning off air conside ditioners and unplug any di eelectrical appliances to pprevent surge damage.

Typically, the more intense a hurricane is, the greater the tornado threat. Tornadoes spawned by hurricanes sometimes produce severe damage and casualties. Today, Doppler radar systems can provide indications of tornadoes from about 30 minutes to even a few minutes in advance. That is why being prepared to act is critical.

Anyone who has witnessed a tornado, or hurricane, firsthand knows about the awesome power of these deadly storms. Although quite different in size, shape and duration, tornadoes and hurricanes are fierce, swirling windstorms that can tear roofs off houses, uproot trees, and toss cars through the air.

During a Tornado Watch: M Move lawn furniture and yard equipment, time permitting. They can cause serious damage or injury if they are blown T through the air. K Keep your television or radio tuned to weather reports. Know where all the members of your family are located! S Stay alert to changing weather. Tornadoes often occur in conjunction with severe thunderstorms that produce hail. If a tornado is approaching, do not wait for a warning to be issued. Take cover immediately. y

Thunderstorms and Lightning Electrical storms

Despite their size, all thunderstorms are dangerous and every thunderstorm produces lightning which kills more people each year than tornadoes. Heavy rains from thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding, strong winds, hail or tornadoes. When skies darken or thunderstorms are forecast, expect increased wind, flashes of lightning and thunder. To estimate the distance in miles between you and a lightning flash, count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder and divide by five. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go inside, or seek shelter immediately. Get out of boats and away from water. Do not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in rag top cars. If lightning is occurring and shelter is unavailable, get inside a hardtop vehicle and keep windows up. Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Use the telephone only in an emergency. Do not take a bath or shower.

CATEGORIES & WIND SPEED Hurricanes are categorized according to the strength of their winds using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. A Category 1 storm has the lowest wind speeds, while a Category 5 hurricane has the strongest. These are relative terms, because lower category storms can sometimes inflict greater damage than higher category storms, depending on where they strike and the particular hazards they bring with them. In fact, tropical storms can also produce significant damage and loss of life, although that is mainly due to flooding.





Minimum damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Also, some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage. Example: Hurricane Erin (1995)





Some roofing material, door, and window damage to buildings. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, and piers. Coastal and low-lying escape routes flood 2-4 hours before arrival of center. Small craft in unprotected anchorages break moorings. Example: Hurricane Frances (2004)





Some structural damage to residences and utility buildings with a minor amount of curtain wall failures. Mobile homes are destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain continuously lower than 5 feet above sea level, may be flooded inland 8 miles or more. Example: Hurricane Katrina (2005)





More extensive curtain wall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore. Terrain continuously lower than 10 feet above sea level may be flooded requiring massive evacuation of residential areas as far as 6 miles inland. Example: Hurricane Charley (2004)

CATEGORY 5: 155 &


Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 feet above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5 to 10 miles of the shoreline may be required. Example: Hurricane Andrew (1992)

SECO’ S STORM CENTER Open 24/7/365 days a year to assist you

What to do if your power fails Notify Sumter Electric, or your power supplier. SECO’s telephone numbers are listed on the back of this brochure. Be prepared to give your name, phone number and street address, or account information.

Please be patient. During major outages, many members will be trying to call at the same time. No utility can guarantee you uninterrupted service; however, you can be assured SECO’s line personnel will work diligently until your electric power has been completely restored. Unplug appliances, such as TVs, VCRs, computers and air conditioning units. This will protect them during the storm and when the power is being restored, prevent electrical fires and lessen the chances of a circuit overload when the power comes back on. Leave one light on (preferably the porch light so that you and the repair crews patrolling the area will know when your power is back on).


Whether it’s a thunderstorm, a tropical disturbance, or a full-fledged hurricane, Florida storms can mean trouble for power lines. In any event, SECO’s Storm Center has been expanded with a dedicated website created to assist our members, emergency operations centers and the media. The Web address is accessible from www.secoenergy. com. Here you can report a power outage, inquire about a previously reported power outage to determine dispatch status, and you can see resolution or estimated restoration time. There are three different levels of maps that show you where current transformer level outages exist and a summary page by county. Comments regarding estimated restoration times and a historical chart of outages and restoration progress will be posted daily.

H ur r i c a n e

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If you use a portable generator, keep it outside in a well ventilated area. Carbon monoxide emissions can be harmful. Equally important is that you do not connect the generator directly to your main electrical panel in the home. If installed incorrectly, power from the generator could flow into outside lines and severely injure neighbors or SECO repair crews who believe those power lines are dead. If rising water threatens your home, turn off the power at the circuit breaker panel, or fuse box, before water enters the structure. If flooding occurs, have a qualified electrician inspect your electrical system before turning the power back on. Always play it safe! Just because the storm is over, doesn’t mean all danger has passed. Use caution. Stay clear of any downed power lines and don’t touch them under any circumstances. They are dangerous. Call SECO, or your electric utility, and warn others away.

After a major power outage

SECO’s Steps to Restoring Power Step 1. Transmission towers and lines supply power to one or more transmission substations. These lines seldom fail, but they can be damaged by a hurricane, tornado or any number of other natural disasters. Tens of thousands of people could be served by one high-voltage transmission line, so if there is damage here it gets attention first.

Step 2. A co-op has many local distribution substations, each serving thousands of consumers. When a major outage occurs, the local distribution substations are checked right away. A problem here could be caused by failure in the transmission system supplying the substation or an equipment problem inside the substation. If the problem can be corrected at the substation level, power can be restored to a large number of people.

Step 3. Main distribution supply lines are checked next. These supply lines carry electricity away from the local distribution substation to large numbers of consumers. A co-op may have well over one hundred of these circuits. When power is restored at this stage, all consumers served by this supply line could see the lights come on. Hospitals and special needs facilities receive priority for power restoration.


urricanes, tornadoes, floods, or other natural disasters – electric cooperative members have seen them all. And with such severe weather come power outages. Restoring power after a major outage is a big job that involves much more than simply throwing a switch or removing a tree from a line.

The main goal is to restore power safely to the greatest number of members in the shortest time possible. The major cause of outages is damage caused by fallen trees. That’s why your electric cooperative has an ongoing tree trimming program. This illustration explains how power typically is restored after a major disaster.

Enlarged area: Consumers themselves (not the co-op) are responsible for damage to the service installation on the building. Your co-op can’t fix anything beyond this point. Contact a licensed electrician.

Step 5. Sometimes, damage will occur on the

Other Co-ops

service line between your house and the transformer on the nearby pole. This can explain why you have no power when your neighbor does. Your co-op needs to know you have an outage here, so a service crew can repair it.

Lateral/Tap Line

During a major outage, other cooperatives send line crews to assist with restoring power. We call for these additional crews, as well as communications, equipment, and supplies well in advance of a major storm like a hurricane.

Report your outage to the cooperative office. Our employees will be working as quickly as possible to resolve your problem. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Step 4. The final supply lines, called lateral or tap lines, carry power to the transformers outside houses or other buildings. Crews make repairs based on restoring service to the greatest number of consumers.

SECO Office ™

Lateral/Tap Line

To report a power outage call SECO’s Emergency hotline:


Danger Stay Clear of Fallen Lines

Illustration adapted from North Carolina’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.

Important Terms to Know Eye E Ey e – the low pressure center of a

tropical storm or hurricane. This area is surrounded by the most intense area of the storm and at a huge contrast. Inside the eye, winds are calm and sometimes the sky clears.

Flash Flood Warning – a flash flood is imminent; take immediate action for your safety. Flash Flood Watch – a flash flood is possible in the area. Stay alert! Hail – rain in the form of pellets of ice sometimes produced by strong thunderstorms. It can be smaller than a pea or as large as a softball and very destructive to plants and crops. In a hailstorm, take cover immediately. Hurricane – an intense low pressure system with winds rotating about the center in a counterclockwise direction at speeds of 74 mph or more. There are five categories of hurricanes, based on their intensity. Hurricane Warning – a warning that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher, and/or dangerously high tides and waves are expected within 24 to 36 hours. If the storm’s path is unusual or erratic, a warning may be issued only a few hours before the beginning of storm conditions. Actions for the protection of life and property should begin immediately. Hurricane Watch – an announcement for specific areas that hurricane conditions pose a threat to the area within 24 to 36 hours. Precautionary measures should be taken immediately. Lightning – an electrical discharge that results from the buildup of positive and negative charges within a thunderstorm. When the buildup becomes strong enough, lightning appears as a “bolt.” This flash of light usually occurs within or between the clouds and the ground. When a lightning bolt occurs, the air surrounding its channel is instantaneously heated to as much as 50,000° F, a temperature that is five times that of the sun.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning – issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by

imminent radar. Warnings indicate im danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch – indicates when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and check for weather reports and bulletins to know when warnings are issued.

Storm Surge – the dome of water that builds up as a hurricane moves over water. This surge of water causes flooding when the storm comes ashore and is usually a hurricane’s biggest killer. Thunder – the acoustic shock wave caused by the extreme heat generated by a lightning flash. The rapid heating and cooling of air near the lightning causes the sound of thunder. In short, the air literally explodes.

Tornado Warning – a tornado warning means that a tornado has actually been sighted. Seek shelter immediately! These are unpredictable storms that can quickly become destructive, even deadly, with winds up to 300 mph.

Tornado Watch – a tornado watch in a given area means that weather conditions are favorable for the possible development of tornadoes.

Tropical Depression – a small area of clouds that begins organizing and rotating counterclockwise with winds of 38 mph, or less.

Tropical Disturbance – a moving area of thunderstorms that maintains its identity for 24 hours, or more. Tropical Storm – a low pressure system receives a name when it reaches a more developed stage of circulation and organization with winds between 39 and 73 mph.

Tropical Storm Warning – a warning that tropical storm conditions, including possible sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph are expected in a specific coastal region within the next 24 hours.

Tropical Storm Watch – an announcement for specific areas that tropical storm winds are a possible threat to coastal areas.


We’re here for you! Our Control Center is staffed 24-hours a day, 365 days a year to provide you with the excellent service you expect and a quick response to your emergency service calls. It’s easy to report an outage anytime, day or night. Just dial any of the local numbers listed below or the new outage hotline and follow the instructions to request a service repair: Outage Hotline . . . (800) SECO-141 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (800) 732-6141 Sumter County . . . (352) 793-3801 Citrus County . . . . (352) 726-3944 Lake County . . . . . (352) 357-5600 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (352) 429-2195 Levy County . . . . . (352) 528-3644 Marion County . . . (352) 237-4107 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (352) 489-4390 Hernando County . (352) 521-5788 Pasco County . . . . (352) 521-5788 When many others are also trying to report a local outage, it is possible that you may get a busy signal. In many cases, this means we are already aware of the outage. However, it is always a good idea to report the disruption in your individual service. Working outdoors in adverse weather conditions is a challenge for any electric company. However, when an outage occurs, SECO crews are there to make repairs as quickly and safely as possible. We understand that it is inconvenient to be without electricity and all of our employees have pledged to do the best possible job they can on behalf of our customers. Find more information at: 06/14CC

Seco Energy Storm Guide  

A guide to understanding and preparing for tropical storms and hurricanes.

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