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Experts brief citizens on hurricane preparedness
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Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure addresses residents during the Town of Indian Shores’ second annual Hurricane Party May 22 at Town Hall.
INDIAN SHORES – People packed into Indian Shores Town Hall and listened attentively to five speakers preaching hurricane preparedness during the Town of Indian Shores’ second annual Hurricane Party on May 22 at Town Hall.

Brian McClure, a Bay News 9 meteorologist, kicked off the briefing. McClure made a key point when he noted that although storm predictions seem so much greater the biggest danger lies with population density.

“It’s not that the storms are getting any bigger,” he said. “For us the danger has increased because the Bay area, especially Pinellas County, is so built up.”

McClure, who has worked in a variety of hurricane prone areas, surprised the audience when he said that every time he has changed a geographical location, “hurricanes seem to follow me.” His comment drew a friendly gasp from the audience. Someone in the crowd jokingly offered him a free one way ticket back to Carolina.

McClure went through a historical record of hurricanes to show a 20- to 30-year cyclical pattern of major storms. He said statistically the Tampa Bay area could expect at least one major hurricane about every 50 years. He said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a 60 to 70 percent probability that there will be 12 to 16 named storms this hurricane season.

Tom Iovino of the Pinellas County Information Office offered a catch phrase that he said everyone should keep in mind: “You have a choice. You can prepare or you can panic.”

Iovino emphasized the importance of being prepared well ahead of time. He also gave an important tip on storm evacuation.

“If you live on the barrier islands you’ve gotta go,” he said. “You don’t have to go to Orlando to evacuate. Think close; think locally.”

Iovino reminded the audience that going to Orlando to escape the storms of 2004 was a wrong decision since the storms also decided that Orlando was a nice place to go.

Rick Walker, assistant chief of Pinellas County Suncoast Fire Rescue, said a public shelter should be a last resort. If possible make an arrangement to go to a friend’s house on high ground.

“A shelter is a life boat not a cruise ship,” he said.

Walker said communicating with family or friends can be difficult at the height of a storm.

“Text messaging will get through under the worst of circumstances,” he said.

Marion Eslick of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary said that his organization never lost a bird to a storm surge.

“We leave them in the pens,” he said. “When the surge comes they just float. After all, they are water birds.”

Indian Shores Police Chief and Town Administrator E.D. Williams said the town has an outdoor warning siren that “will tell you there is something going on. For the best information go to your TV,” he said.

Williams also warned residents that once they leave the island to evacuate they will not be allowed back should they forget to take medicine, a pet or other items.

A lot of hurricane-related information was available to citizens. Salt Rock Grille provided refreshments and Pat Plumlee Real Estate gave each attendee a flashlight.
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