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Once the summer starts to wind down, it’s easy to forget that hurricane season is still active. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the hottest months that are the most dangerous but September and October that spawn the biggest and most famous storms. The season doesn’t officially end until November 30th, so it’s important to remain vigilant and keep an eye on any systems that pop up in our neck of the woods—and know what to do if the next storm zeroes in on Central Florida. Here are some tips to keep yourself and your horses safe as we enter the final and most precarious stretch of the 2016 hurricane season.

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Life, Home, and Property

Because Florida gets routinely battered by tropical systems of all shapes, sizes, and intensities, most modern homes are built to withstand high winds and storm stress. However, sometimes your home might need an extra boost to stay in one piece if a hurricane is headed your way. Keep yourself and your family safe by prepping well ahead of landfall!

  • Make window protection a priority, especially if you’re hunkering down at home. Not only do windows keep wind, rain, and debris out, they also help maintain structural integrity. They are your home’s biggest vulnerability in a storm. Flying debris can shatter even impact-resistant glass if blown around fast enough, and wind blowing through shattered windows can create enough upward pressure to rip the roof off of your home from the inside. Taping windows isn’t enough protection; covering them with 1/2 to 3/4-inch marine plywood is the safest bet. Plywood for windows should be procured and installed well ahead of the storm’s arrival. Cut the plywood to fit all windows, and drill screws 18 inches apart.
  • Trees are the next most important priority. We all love Ocala’s beautiful palms and oaks, but a giant live oak limb through your roof isn’t a good look. Be sure to regularly remove all weak and dead tree limbs near your home, and discard ones you find on the ground–they could become missiles later.
  • Know your zone! If you’re unsure if your home is in a flood zone, check with the county and plan accordingly with sandbags or an evacuation plan. Many homes in Marion County are located on hills or in elevated areas, but others are low-lying. Homes that border Putnam County are especially vulnerable. Have a “go bag” ready just in case you have to get out fast.
  • Keep a battery-powered radio on hand to keep up with advisories and updates, and a battery-powered charger for your phone to keep you connected with your loved ones and Weather apps.
  • Have a week’s supply of non-perishable food and water on hand at all times.

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Equine

If you’re like most horse owners when a big storm heads our way, your animals are the first thing on your mind. Rest easy knowing that there’s plenty you can do long before a major storm hits to keep your horses out of harm’s way.

  • Have your horses (and all your animals!) microchipped and registered.
  • Know your evacuation route, and be prepared to leave early to beat traffic.
  •  Ensure that you’re able to access a truck and trailer or commercial transport at all times.
  • Contact all counties in your evacuation plan for info on equine housing facilities.
  • If you are evacuating, bring a week’s supply of hay, feed, and as much water as possible.
  • Have an equine first aid kit ready at all times (include bandages, vetrap, wound salves, etc.)
  • Be sure horses are wearing halters (nameplates are highly recommended) immediately prior to the storm’s approach. Write down your name, address, and phone number and wrap it securely around each horse’s halter with tape.
  • If you are not evacuating, fill all troughs prior to the storm’s approach, and consider investing in 85-gallon tanks to transport water to pastures in the event of a power outage. Be sure to have a week’s supply of hay and feed on hand in case stores are closed.
  • If your barn isn’t sturdy enough to withstand a storm, horses should be left outside their pastures.
  • If your property is in a flood zone or is vulnerable to surge, DO NOT tie horses up in stalls or in pastures. If your barn begins to flood, let your horses out IMMEDIATELY and as fast as possible.