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U.S. senator visits Mexico Beach to discuss hurricane preparedness: Atlantic hurricane season begins this week

U.S. Senator Rick Scott picked a location with a view of the water for his press conference held in Mexico Beach last week, a setting he felt would highlight the point of his visit to the community.

“Hurricane season is coming,†he said. “We need to be prepared if and when another storm hits.â€

Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe faced the brunt of the impacts from Hurricane Michael when it made landfall in the area in October, 2018.

Wounds from Hurricane Michael are still felt deeply in Gulf and Bay Counties, where insurance claims remain unsettled, and many have been forced to leave their homes and businesses behind.



The storm claimed the lives of at least 74 people in multiple counties, and the National Center for Environmental Information estimated that Michael caused upwards of $18 billion in damage in Florida.

Scott said he has seen the destruction a storm like this can cause. That’s why he and a half dozen more local entities gathered on the back patio of the newly rebuilt Driftwood Inn on Friday to encourage members of the community to prepare for storms even if forecasters are predicting fewer storms than in years past.

“First thing is, get ready. Don’t take a chance. You can re-build your house, you can redo your house, get a new car, but you can’t rebuild that life,†Scott said. “… We all have somebody we care about. If you lose somebody, you never get to see them again until you get to heaven.â€

“You have got to listen to when anybody tells you to evacuate and even before. Get out.â€

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting a “near-normal†2023 hurricane season, which will begin Thursday. One positive sign is that forecasters say odds are improving that a potentially significant El Nino weather phenomenon will form soon, which typically means weaker hurricane formations in the Atlantic.

Over the six month hurricane season, NOAA predicts 12 to 17 named storms, 5-9 hurricanes with maximum winds of at least 74 miles per hour and one to four major hurricanes of a category 3 or above with winds of at least 111 miles per hour.

The 2022 season featured 14 named storms, with eight reaching hurricane strength. Two systems were major hurricanes. The names Fiona and Ian were both retired after pummeling Puerto Rico, in the case of Fiona, and southeastern Florida, in the case of Ian. Hurricanes, in 2022, caused billions of dollars in damage, according to U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Dawn Graves.

While the Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and ends on Nov. 30, the Atlantic has already recorded its first system. The National Hurricane Center said in a news release, “A subtropical storm formed in the Atlantic basin in mid-January 2023. … This subtropical storm is being numbered as the first cyclone of 2023 in the Atlantic basin.â€

Floridians can take advantage of an exclusive deal by the Florida Division of Emergency Management which allows residents to purchase emergency preparedness items tax free.

The two 14-day sales tax holidays run from May 27 to June 9 and from  August 26 to September 8.

A full list of applicable items can be found to the right.

Scott said that along with individuals being prepared for potential disasters, it would be important for officials and emergency responders to evaluate how things might have changed in the area since Hurricane Michael.

“We have to figure out how to get everyone out of here. We have to prepare for how those efforts might need to change with everything that is different around here. How can we improve those evacuation routes? How can we time who needs to leave when? How do we determine who needs to leave first? How can we prepare to evacuate all the new people who have moved here?†he said. “All of these things need to be examined.â€


Items covered by Florida’s emergency preparedness tax holidays.

Floridians can take advantage of an exclusive deal by the Florida Division of Emergency Management which allows residents to purchase emergency preparedness items tax free.

The two 14-day sales tax holidays run from May 27 to June 9 and from August 26 to September 8.

Here is a list of covered items.

  • A portable generator used to provide light or communications or preserve food in the event of a power outage with a sales price of $3,000 or less.
  • A tarpaulin or other flexible waterproof sheeting with a sales price of $100 or less.
  • An item normally sold as, or generally advertised as, a ground anchor system or tie-down kit ith a sales price of $100 or less.
  • A smoke detector or smoke alarm with a sales price of $70 or less.
  • A fire extinguisher with a sales price of $70 or less.
  • A carbon monoxide detector with a sales price of $70 or less.
  • A nonelectric food storage cooler with a sales price of $60 or less.
  • A portable power bank with a sales price of $60 or less.
  • A gas or diesel fuel tank with a sales price of $50 or less.
  • A portable self-powered radio, two-way radio, or weather-band radio with a sales price of $50 or less. A package of AA-cell, AAA-cell, C-cell, D-cell, 6- volt, or 9-volt batteries, excluding automobile and boat batteries, with a sales price of $50 or less A portable self-powered light source (powered by battery, solar, hand-crank or gas) with a sales price of $40 or less
    • Flashlights
    • Lanterns
    • Candles
    • * Eligible light sources and radios qualify for the exemption even if electrical cords are included in the purchase.
  • Common household consumable items with a sales price of $30 or less. For purposes of this exemption, common household consumable items means:
    • Laundry detergent and supplies
    • Powder, liquid, or pod detergent
    • Fabric softener
    • Dryer sheets
    • Stain removers
    • Bleach
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Paper napkins and tissues
  • Facial tissues
  • Hand soap, bar soap, and body wash
  • Sunscreen and sunblock
  • Dish soap and detergents, including powder, liquid, and pod detergents or rinse agents that can be used in dishwashers
  • Cleaning or disinfecting wipes and sprays
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Trash bags
  • Reusable ice (ice packs) with a sales price of $20 or less
  • Supplies necessary for the evacuation of household pets. For purposes of this exemption, necessary supplies means the noncommercial purchase of:
  • Bags of dry cat or dog food weighing 50 or fewer pounds and with a sales price of $100 or less per bag
  • Portable kennels or pet carriers with a sales price of $100 or less per item
  • Over-the-counter pet medications with a sales price of $100 or less
  • Pet beds with a sales price of $40 or less per item
  • Cat litter weighing 25 or fewer pounds and with a sales price of $25 or less per item
  • Leashes, collars, and muzzles with a sales price of $20 or less per item
  • Pet pads with a sales price of $20 or less per box or package
  • Manual can openers with a sales price of $15 or less per item
  • Collapsible or travel-sized food or water bowls with a sales price of $15 or less per item
  • Cat litter pans with a sales price of $15 or less per item
  • Pet waste disposal bags with a sales price of $15 or less per package
  • Hamster or rabbit substrate with a sales price of $15 or less per package
  • Cans or pouches of wet pet food with a sales price of $10 or less per can or pouch or the equivalent if sold in a box or case


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