TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Last year saw two hurricanes hit Florida, making landfall for the first time since 2005. Forecasters are predicting as many as 17 named storms this hurricane season, and experts say now is the time to prepare.
“I think folks had a very good refresher last year that Florida is a very hurricane-prone state," said Kelly Godsey, with the National Weather Service. "As we move forward, we know it's just a matter of time before we get another hurricane landfall in the state of Florida.”
A tax-cut package signed by Gov. Rick Scott includes a tax holiday for Floridians preparing for hurricane season.
Starting Friday, shoppers can buy hurricane supplies without paying sales taxes during the three-day “holiday."
PRINTABLE: List of items included in tax holiday
“These tax cuts are going to be huge this year,” Florida Retail Federation spokesman James Miller said. “It hits a number of different sectors, and a number of different industries. Business owners across the state are going to be really happy with the result of this.”
The window on tax-free storm gear is timed with the start of the six-month hurricane season, which begins Thursday.
With the holiday estimated to save shoppers $4.5 million, sales taxes will not be collected during the period on items such as portable self-powered lights selling for $20 or less; portable self-powered radios and tarpaulins at $50 or less; first-aid kits up to $30; and portable generators up to $750.
The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes said the tax-free weekend is a perfect opportunity to get supplies early.
"So when a storm does come, you know you're not waiting until it's three or four days off the coast, and then you're frantically trying to get everything together,” said the Alliance's Mike Rimoldi. “Do it now.”
Godsey said this time of year is also when people should be thinking about coming up with a plan for what to do if a storm hits.
“Know if you're in an evacuation zone. Learn where you are, learn where the flood risk is, so that if an evacuation is ordered, you know when you need to leave and where you're going to go,” Godsey said. “And have that all planned out before the hurricane approaches.”
To make sure residents have a way to stay informed, weather radios selling for less than $50 will also be tax exempt this weekend.
News Service of Florida reporter Jim Turner contributed to this report.