POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — In a booming county, officials want new residents to be ready for all hurricanes, even when they live outside the forecast cone.

“There’s a big misconception that if you’re not in the cone, then you’re safe. That’s not the case. The impacts can be hundreds of miles outside of that area cone,” said Paul Womble, Polk County emergency management director.

That’s a focus for Womble as hurricane season begins June 1.

Cone-shaped graphics are ubiquitous during hurricane coverage. They show where the center of a hurricane could travel.

“If it’s a storm that’s hundreds of miles wide, [there’s] tornadoes, heavy rain. The cone shows where the center could be. The cone doesn’t show all those other impacts,” he said.

At the Emergency Operations Center Tuesday, people were calling those with special medical needs who are pre-registered with the county.

They reach out ahead of hurricane season to make sure contact information is correct

“We’ve got about 2,500 or so folks in Polk County. We know there’s more that are not registered so we really encourage everybody to pre-register. That way it helps us plan,” he said.

The county, in partnership with Citrus Connection, can provide transportation to shelters with electricity for people who are pre-registered.

People can call 863-298-7027 to register and learn more or visit Polk County’s website.

“It’s really for people who have family or friends with some type of primary dependency on electricity,” said Womble.

According to Womble, Hurricanes Charley, Francis and Jean, all in 2004, Irma in 2017 and Ian in 2022 show how high winds and heavy rainfall can devastate inland communities.

“We had a lot of wind damage. Trees down, powerlines down and you know damage to people’s homes,” said Womble about Irma.

Polk County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the country.

With so many new residents, Womble said he is often asked about evacuation zones, which are used in coastal areas for storm surge risks.

“Here in Polk County, we don’t have evacuation zones like the coastal counties. But mobile homes, RV’s, some type of housing that could flood or certainly that high winds could damage,” said Womble.

“I could not believe the homes that were underwater and the damage that was done,” said Rep. Melony Bell (R-District 45) about the damage left behind in Polk, Hardee and DeSoto counties after Hurricane Ian.

Bell says her roof in Fort Meade still has not been repaired since Ian last September.

She wants new residents to be aware of the risks.

“We have rivers here. We have lakes here and when water starts dumping, water starts rising. We had people that were like hanging up in trees trying to get away from the flooding,” she said.

Bell said she said one of the legislature’s achievements she is most proud of from this session is the passage of a 14-day disaster preparedness sales tax holiday.

It is in effect now through June 9.

Qualifying hurricane supplies are exempt from sales tax.

For a full list, visit the Florida Department of Revenue’s website.

Womble advises people to have seven days’ worth of supplies in case of a hurricane.