"Go with the flow" might serve some Pasco residents well as a guiding principle for their everyday lives, but not when it comes to being prepared for hurricanes and storm-surge flooding.
Evacuation zones have changed a lot this year, according to Pasco County Emergency Management Director James Martin.
Some zones now reach inland approximately eight miles in some locations, Martin emphasized.
So residents should study the evac maps now to know the impact on their neighborhoods, Martin urged. Predictions already call for many more storms this hurricane season through Nov. 30.
"We still have limited evacuation routes to move upward of 300,000 residents" during a Category 5 storm, Martin said. Those are the strongest hurricanes with winds above 155 mph.
"Evacuation zones were changed for several reasons," Martin explained Tuesday.
"First, we received more refined ground elevation data using Light Detection and Ranging," Martin pointed out. LIDAR is a remote sensing system on an aircraft used to collect topographic data.
"Second, the storm surge model was updated to give us the worst-case storm surge scenario for each category of storm," Martin continued.
This new model showed an increase in the distance the surge traveled inland which had an impact on all evacuation levels, moving some farther east. Level E boundaries were redrawn and moved to the east. Level A evacuation zone is now red in color on Pasco maps.
In comments last month, Martin had said "homeowner policies cover potential wind damage and, therefore, should not be affected by the new hurricane evacuation zones which are tied to the threat of water."
Nor should the evac zones have much impact on flood insurance rates and requirements, Martin believes.
Those rates use a different computer model to predict the possible risk, he elaborated. That risk takes into account not only coastal flooding, but also heavy rains that could flood low-lying, inland areas of Pasco.
"Hurricanes are a relatively low probability compared to rainfall," Martin remarked.
A copy of the new evacuation zone map and a hurricane guide can be found on the Pasco Emergency Management website.