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Hurricane Dorian could be first trial for Tampa’s new hurricane re-entry program

Tracking the Tropics

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — If Hurricane Dorian hits the Tampa Bay area hard enough to force evacuations, it could be the first test for the City of Tampa’s new hurricane re-entry program.

The city unveiled the program in February and mailed out roughly 70,000 tags to homes and businesses in the areas most likely to be evacuated in the event of a hurricane.

The zip code areas include: 33602, 33605, 33606, 33609, 33611, 33616, 33619, 33629 and MacDill Air Force Base 33621

The color-coded tags allow for easy identification by public safety officials when allowing people to return to storm damaged neighborhoods. The city hopes that allows people to get home faster after an evacuation, as well as keep looters out while evacuees are away.

“We haven’t seen it here in Tampa, and I hope we don’t see it,” said Tampa Police Dept. spokesperson Steve Hegarty. “But we’ve seen in other locations, you have situations where people take advantage of the fact that people leave.”

While some residents immediately stowed their tag in their car’s glove compartment per city advice, like Nick Ganster of Davis Islands, others say they’ve since misplaced it.

“Doesn’t surprise me at all,” Ganster said. “Hopefully that can find them!”

Other people who live in the hang tag zip codes have recently moved in, like Jillian Cohen, and never received one in the mail.

TPD says residents can still get back into an evacuation zone without a hang tag, just be ready to show proof of your address, like a utility bill. Be sure to have such proof with you before evacuating.

Many just hope Dorian isn’t strong enough to force evacuations, period.

“I don’t plan on evacuating,” said Ganster. “But we’ll see what happens tomorrow and Saturday.”

You can order a replacement hang tag on the city’s hurricane re-entry program website for $5. Police warn ordering one now does not mean it will arrive in Hurricane Dorian does.

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