Making the decision to stay or go

Blue alert symbol icon — a triangle with rounded corners with an exclamation point inside

When a hurricane is approaching, will you stay in Leon County or drive miles away to another location? Evacuating to a safe shelter locally or in a neighboring county has advantages; you will avoid traffic jams and highways crowded with vehicles from other counties joining the evacuation. Even if you leave the area, the storm could shift and still put you in harm’s way. Additionally, you may need to adjust your preparedness plans based on the latest health and safety guidelines from the CDC and your local officials. The next section will guide you through the steps you should take as a storm is approaching and the choices you’ll have to make.

Photo of people filling sandbags

5-day cone actions

When the Big Bend area is in the 5-day cone, it’s time to implement your plan and preparations. A hurricane is on a probable path to reach our area in five days.

  • Review your family disaster plan.
  • Get your disaster bucket and important papers ready.
  • Begin work to prepare your home and yard.
  • If you or a family member have special needs, be sure to implement your plan and, if needed, register for a special needs shelter.

3-day cone actions

As a storm moves closer to land, the accuracy of the forecast increases, and residents should step up their preparation with the following actions:

  • Double check your disaster bucket and make necessary purchases.
  • Gather special supplies for children, seniors, and pets.
  • Be sure you have all materials and tools necessary to shutter windows.
  • If your plans are to evacuate, make arrangements, book reservations and pack what you can in your vehicle.

Hurricane Watch actions (48 hours ahead)

  • Prepare as if the storm is headed directly for your home. Be ready for a Hurricane Warning within a few hours.
  • Fill your vehicle’s gas tank.
  • Get cash and secure important papers and valuables.
  • Refill medications.
  • Fill containers and tubs with water, even if evacuating – you may need the water when you return.
  • Secure yard equipment and furniture.
  • Shutter your windows.
  • If your plans are to evacuate the area, secure your home so you can leave as soon as an evacuation order is issued.
  • If you plan to travel or be transported to a public shelter, be sure you have everything you need in your disaster bucket.

Hurricane Warning actions (36 hours ahead)

  • Be prepared for an evacuation order to be issued.
  • Stay tuned to local news and get your weather radio ready.
  • Complete final preparations to evacuate or to shelter in your home.
  • If your plan is to travel out of the local area and you can leave at this point, go.

When a Hurricane strikes

Prepare for the storm before the arrival of tropical force winds. When hurricanes move onto land, the heavy rain, strong winds, storm surge and crashing waves can damage buildings, trees, cars and other infrastructure.

Hurricanes Have Two Main Parts:

  • The eye of the hurricane is an area of nearly calm winds in the center of the storm where the lowest pressure resides. The eye of a hurricane averages about 20 miles in diameter and often has very few clouds.
  • The second part is the wall of very tall clouds that surrounds the relatively calm eye. This region, known as the eye wall, is where the hurricane’s strongest winds and heaviest rain occur.
  • If you’re being transported to a public shelter, be ready to leave when contacted.
  • Determine if your residence is affected by the evacuation order — does it include your area, or do you live in a mobile or manufactured home?
  • If you are evacuating locally, get to your shelter location within a few hours of the order.
  • If you are traveling out of the local area, leave immediately to avoid traffic jams.
  • Be aware of your evacuation time range. Evacuations will be issued with beginning and end times.

A Category 1 hurricane like Hermine, with winds of 74 to 95 mph, can rip apart a mobile home. The National Hurricane Center reports that no mobile home or manufactured home — no matter how new it is — can be a safe shelter from hurricane force winds. Also, tornadoes can spin off from hurricanes. Straps or other tie-downs will not protect a mobile home from high winds associated with a hurricane. In 1992, 97% of all manufactured homes in Hurricane Andrew’s path in Dade County were destroyed, compared to 11% of single-family, non-manufactured homes. If a hurricane threatens Leon County, all mobile home residents should plan to evacuate to a safer location. If you must evacuate and do not have access to transportation due to age, disability, or other special needs, you should register now with Leon County Emergency Management.

  • You live in a structure that was built after 1973 when Florida adopted a standard building code.
  • You do not live in a manufactured or mobile home.
  • Your home is not vulnerable to storm surge or inland flooding.
  • You have reduced the threat of falling trees by trimming and/or removing dead, dying or diseased trees.
  • You have mitigated the effects of severe winds on your home by installing hurricane shutters on windows and bracing your garage door.
  • You have prepared a multi-hazard Disaster Response Plan for yourself, your family, and your pets.
  • You have prepared a disaster bucket that includes cash, a supply of food, water and a 1-month supply of prescription medicines.
  • You have identified a safe room within your home.
  • An evacuation order has been issued.
  • You live in a manufactured or mobile home.
  • You live in a structure that was built prior to 1973 when Florida adopted a standard building code.
  • Your home is vulnerable to storm surge or inland flooding.
  • You can leave early enough to meet an estimated regional clearance time of 24 hours. (It is very dangerous to be on the highway during a storm.)

Photo of cars in traffic

Leon County officials can issue an order directing the evacuation of specific areas of the county deemed to be in danger. Prepare to leave 24 hours prior to the storm landfall in order to give yourself enough time to evacuate. Remember you may need to adjust your preparedness plans based on the latest health and safety guidelines from the CDC and your local officials.


If a tropical storm is approaching or a hurricane is expected to cross Florida and pass over Leon County, the danger from storm surge may be high. Emergency managers may recommend residents in mobile homes or flood prone areas to evacuate to higher ground or a sturdier shelter.


The probability of storm surge is high and could be deadly for residents who don’t leave. It is illegal to stay in a home under a mandatory evacuation order. Residents living in mobile homes should plan to evacuate to a safer location during a mandatory order.

Prior to evacuation, remember:

  • Maintain a full tank of gas.
  • Bring identification, insurance papers and other important documents for every family member.
  • Bring adequate water, snacks, cash and medications.
  • Obey all special traffic signs and law enforcement orders.

Be prepared for:

  • Extremely heavy traffic. Residents in highly vulnerable areas should leave the area sooner rather than later.
  • Limited access to gas stations, restaurants and restroom facilities.

Risk shelters may only have water, snacks and a secure area for you to stay safe during a major storm. Shelters may be crowded and are not designed for comfort. If you evacuate to a risk shelter during a disaster, please bring the following items:

  • Toiletries and diapers if you are sheltering with young children.
  • Prescription medications, identification and any important documents you deem necessary.
  • Additional snacks, specifically if you have a special diet.
  • Blankets, pillows, and/or sleeping bags. Accommodations at the shelter will be limited.
  • Books, puzzles or other entertainment that do not require electricity.
  • Two cloth face coverings per person and hand sanitizer. (Please Note: The CDC recommends wearing masks to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, other viruses and the flu. Children under two years old and people that have trouble breathing should not wear face coverings.)

For citizens with special needs

According to the Florida Department of Health, a Special Needs Shelter is for “someone who, during periods of evacuation or emergency, requires sheltering assistance due to physical impairment, mental impairment, cognitive impairment or sensory disabilities.” Special needs shelters are designed to meet the needs of persons who require assistance that exceeds services provided at a general population shelter. If a person is medically stable but needs help with basic tasks or uses an electronic medical device and has no other evacuation options, they should pre-register for a special needs shelter at SNR.FloridaDisaster.org.

All information is confidential and protected under Florida Statutes and must be updated on an annual basis. For further assistance, call Leon County Emergency Management at (850) 606-3700.

Protect Your Pets

Inventory your supplies and review all records so your pet can be safe in the event of a hurricane. Make a kit including a pet crate, a list of pet friendly hotels, food and water with respective bowls, medications with instructions for administering, copies of current veterinary records that include your address and phone number, a leash and collar with rabies tag and ID, a picture of your pet and a small box with litter for cats.

Storm surge is the leading cause of death from hurricanes and is the reason hurricane evacuation orders are issued. The Apalachee Bay is one of the most storm surge prone areas in the Southeast. Areas of southern Leon County have been identified as storm surge evacuation zones. Know your zone!

Zone C (Yellow) – Areas east of Crawfordville Highway to the Leon/Jefferson County Line, and areas along and south of the following roads: Glover Road; Oak Ridge Road; Rhodes Cemetery Road; Meridale Drive.

Zone D (Green) – Includes all areas in Zone C, in addition to areas east of Springhill Road to the Leon/Jefferson County Line, and areas along and south of the following roads: Capital Circle SW; Capital Circle SE; Tram Road.

Map showing 2022 shelter locations and storm surge zones

Please note: Not every shelter will open for every disaster. Please check LeonCountyFL.gov/ei or call (850) 606-3700 to learn about shelter openings.