Hurricane safety a concern in dorms

Here we go again. Tropical Storm Wilma is brewing in the Caribbean, gaining strength as she prepares to toy with the millions of people already affected by cyclonic weather. Just in case you’ve begun to enjoy this crisp, beautiful weather Florida is rarely privy to, Wilma is here to remind us that hurricane season is far from over. As a matter of fact, it’s open season in our waters until Nov. 30.

Kind of makes you appreciate the plight of Bambi’s mother, doesn’t it?

I’ve survived many hurricanes myself. As a Miami-bred woman, I have experienced more encounters with those spiraling masses of wind and rain than any one person should. I became familiar with these she-devils (ever heard of a him-icane?) at a very young age, enduring Hurricane Andrew when I was 7. Yes, I was there when the storm ravaged Miami. Starting my affair with a Category 4 storm made all the others seem weak by comparison.

But I no longer live under my parents’ roof. Whereas once I had the unfortunate luxury of watching trees collapse into my swimming pool free of care, I now have responsibilities that require me to approach this mess like an adult. Well, at least like a college student. And with this in mind, and more than a decade of hurricane experience under my belt, I humbly offer some advice to the apartment- or dorm-dwelling student.

I’m not your mother, so I’ll keep the preaching to a minimum. I’m only going to tell you this once, and I hope you take me seriously. Heed the warnings: I cannot stress this enough. If Katrina taught us anything, it’s that so many problems can be avoided if we just evacuate when we’re told.

But if they tell you it’s safe to stay-

Stock up on water. I lived in Andros for a summer; I know how vile that tap water is under normal circumstances. If for some reason the water temporarily goes out or becomes contaminated, you’ll be happy with your supply. Wal-Mart sells gallons of purified water for dirt cheap.

Protect your car. Whether there are large trees looming over your apartment’s parking lot or your carport is conducive to flooding, your precious vehicle is at risk. If you have an appropriate parking pass, the third or fourth floors of either USF parking garage are safe havens for autos. Be sure to park away from the perimeter because any large branch could fly through the gaps and become a projectile.

Make sure you have renter’s insurance. Many companies offer rates as low as $15 per month with up to $20,000 in coverage. It might not seem like a big deal, but should floodwaters creep into your first-floor apartment and ruin your furniture, could you really afford to replace everything by yourself?

Do not go outside, especially during the eye of the storm. The region around the eye wall has the highest wind speeds, and northeast of the eye lies the most potent tornado breeding ground. My little brother lost a good friend several years ago while he was walking his dog during the eye of a storm. It’s not safe, and you really don’t need a smoke that badly.

Remember to turn off all electronics at first sight of increased winds. If the power goes out while your laptop is plugged in, the short circuit could fry your hard drive. The same goes for your television and DVD player. Invest in a battery-operated radio so you can track the storm in case the power goes out. If you get bored, read a book.

Hurricanes can be fun if you’re wise about it. Some of my fondest memories are of hurricane parties with my roommates – playing board games, eating canned food and watching the cabaret outside our windows. Be cautious of my warnings, and always be aware of your surroundings.

Get used to it. You’re in Florida, baby.

Taylor Williams is a junior majoring in English education.