Local News

Hurricane seminar, sales tax holiday set

—The year Hurricane Andrew hit Florida was a time when the El Nino weather pattern, which typically dampens hurricane formation, was in place.

El Nino didn’t stop what was then the costliest hurricane to hit the United States from forming.

As the Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1, Highlands County Emergency Operations Director Scott Canaday reminds people to be prepared.

This year, hurricane forecasters are expecting fewer Atlantic storms because of El Nino but Canaday reminded folks that it takes only one big storm to cause havoc.

“Be prepared,” he said. “It takes only one.”

The Atlantic hurricane season, which officially ends Nov. 30, peaks in September.

In conjunction with that, the Highlands County Emergency Management Operation will hold its annual hurricane seminar at 10 a.m. May 31 at the Bert J. Harris Jr. Agricultural Center, 4509 George Blvd., Sebring.

Participants will learn the different levels of warnings and what they mean; where the emergency shelters are located; where food, water and ice will be available; items needed for a supply kit; where to find emergency information, and other questions that may arise.

There also will be speakers.

It’s been eight years since a hurricane has made landfall in Florida and Canaday said attendance has been dwindling at the seminar because of the complacency that has set in, but reiterated the importance of being prepared.

To help Floridians do just that, the Legislature also approved for this year its sales tax holiday for hurricane supply items.

Floridians will be exempt from paying sales tax on qualifying items, starting from 12:01 a.m. May 31 to 11:59 p.m. June 8.

Eligible items are reusable ice packs( $10 or less); portable self-powered light source, battery-powered flashlights, lanterns, gas-powered lanterns, candles($20 or less); gas or diesel fuel containers ($25 or less) batteries ($30 or less); coolers; tarps; radios; tie-down kits; portable generators ($750 or less).

Every family’s disaster kit needs are different and Canaday suggested they find out what they need and make sure they get them.

The Highlands County Emergency Management Operations has a complete disaster kit list on its web site, he added.

Meanwhile, the hurricane sales tax holiday is one of three sales tax holidays the state has approved for this year.

There is one set for back-to-school supplies, such as clothes, computers and classroom supplies, in August, and for energy-efficient appliances in September.

Starting from July 1, child car seats and youth bicycle helmets also will be exempt from sales tax. Accessories that are sold separately from the child restraint system or the booster seat are not exempt.