Officials share Irma lessons with vulnerable mobile home residents

- Just about a year ago, Hurricane Irma was pounding Florida with high winds, heavy rains and plenty of flooding.

August was a quiet month for hurricanes in the Tampa Bay area. But as Irma proved last year, September can be a busier hurricane month. On Thursday, Hillsborough County Emergency Management officials began going door to door, focusing on mobile home communities to make sure residents are ready.

There are 60,000 people living in mobile homes in the county. People who live in the Fountainview mobile home community remember the calls for evacuation. 

"My daughter and I went to Tallahassee and believe it or not, we lost power up there but did not lose it here," said resident Sara Stanley.

"There were people who stayed in this park here when it was supposedly going to be a direct hit on Tampa," said resident Mike Kovach.

So a year later, Hillsborough County emergency leaders aren't taking chances -- this time, focusing their message on every mobile home.

"They have to evacuate no matter when they call for an evacuation," said Preston Cook, the Hillsborough County Emergency Management director. "If they are in an evacuation zone or not, they have to evacuate because these structures they just can't stand the high winds that a hurricane can produce."

Cook said all it takes is one storm to do a lot of damage, so county agencies are sharing preparedness tips and giving out weather radios.

"Obviously, when a storm comes, those are the areas that get hit and get hit rather hard," said Jon-Paul Lavandeira, the Hillsborough County Code Enforcement executive manager.

County leaders are stressing it's better to have a plan now than scramble to figure it out later.

"I already my kit and everything. I've got all my papers in my little safe deposit box, and we'll just do the same thing," said Kovach. "And whether we evacuate all the way out or go to a friend's house, that remains to be seen I guess."

County emergency officials said they will visit managers of mobile home communities through November.

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