Emergency officials in Tampa Bay Area urging residents to prepare for hurricanes

Storms and heavy downpours caused flash flooding and major damage across Florida this week.

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a State of Emergency in Sarasota County and several counties in South Florida.

Emergency officials in Tampa Bay are urging people to get prepared for severe weather, as hurricane season just began.

Clearwater emergency officials held a hurricane preparedness expo on Saturday morning.

Clearwater officials say nearly 3,000 sandbags were distributed Saturday.

"Last year, we had that no-name storm," Clearwater Emergency Management Division ChiefJevon Graham said. "It brought more flooding than some of the hurricanes we have, so it’s definitely a concern that we’re dealing with."

Graham says flooding is one of their top concerns with any type of heavy rain or storm.

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"Storm surge is one of the biggest issues that we deal with, with any storm that comes through," Graham said.

Dozens of cars lined up at Saturday’s event to load up on sandbags ahead of time. Some people say they’ve waited until a storm is coming, and then haven’t been able to get sandbags.

"One year, I was unable to get sandbags, and the water came up quite a bit," Annie Shaw said. "So this year, I’m being proactive."

At Saturday’s expo, agencies from around Pinellas County helped people figure out their flood and evacuation zones, make plans for their pets during a storm and provide other resources for what people need to do to be ready for hurricane season.

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"Sometimes you get complacent, and you just think, ‘Oh well’, and put it off a little bit," Janet Larue, who came to the expo said. "But I’m not doing that anymore."

Regardless of the size of the storm, first responders want people to be prepared for any type of situation.

"Heed the warnings," Graham said. "Listen to what we tell you. A lot of the time, we tell you, ‘Stay in your homes. Stay in your homes’. When they tell you to evacuate, evacuate."

Emergency responders also encourage people to sign up for Alert Pinellas to get alerts to your phone or email.

To find more information about Pinellas County resources, click here.

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