LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- If the time comes to evacuate your home when a hurricane is on the way, where do you go? Here's what you need to do now to make sure you're ready.
"When I think of planning for hurricane season, I think it starts with evacuation planning." Dr. Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, stresses the importance of knowing if you live in an evacuation zone. Contact your local county or city emergency management agency, they can tell you if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone.
Interactive maps online show the four different zones in Southwest Florida. People living in "Zone A" will likely be evacuated with any named storm coming in from the Gulf. Those areas are most vulnerable because of low elevation and proximity to the tidal waters.
People in "Zone B" will likely have to leave when a hurricane heads this way.
Those living in "Zone C", while farther from the coast, will need to evacuate in the event of a larger hurricane. This area is still vulnerable to wind and storm surge.
"Storm surge in the southwest coast of Florida can go inland many, many miles," says Storm Surge Team Leader Jamie Rhome.
"Zone D" is the least vulnerable area. Well protected buildings should be safe in most storms. But even in this zone, high winds, tornadoes, and heavy rains can be dangerous.
"You don't have to travel hundreds of miles. You only have to travel tens of miles to get out of the storm surge threat area, and that's what we're most concerned with," says senior hurricane specialist Dan Brown.
Once you know which zone you live in, ask yourself this question: If a storm approaches and you have to evacuate, where will you go?
Think about going to a friend or family's house. "Have your supplies, know what you're going to do, be prepared. Because you will be very thankful when that hurricane is threatening that you have done your homework and that you know what you are going to do and you know where your family is going to ride out the storm and be safe," says Brown.
Finding out which zone you live in is a click away. Head to the Fox 4 Hurricane Center page for an interactive evacuation zone map.