CLEARWATER – Pinellas County is under a local state of emergency as of Monday morning due to continued threats of the effects of Tropical Storm Debby.
Pinellas County Commission Vice-Chair signed the resolution Monday morning to allow staff to more readily take action in response to the lingering storm. Pinellas County and much of the west coast remains under a tropical storm warning.
The National Hurricane Center expects Debby to come ashore as a weak tropical storm sometime on Thursday morning, perhaps north of Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve.
Dave Baker, public information manager with Pinellas County Communications, said latest word from the National Weather Service was that due to Debby’s weakening condition, the local threat from storm surge and tornados had lessened, especially as compared to Sunday. He said an additional 5 to 8 inches of rain is possible – on top of the nearly foot of rain received thus far.
State officials estimate that two-thirds of Florida will be affected by the storm. The state has gone to a level 1 emergency activation.
Baker said all county roads are open with some lingering problems on roads in low-lying areas that typically flood during heavy rains. He said some roads had been closed on Sunday, especially in more northern areas of the county. Some areas of Ozona were still impassable to “normal motor vehicles.”
Solid waste has inspected its facilities and no damage was found. Five lift stations failed Sunday night, but crews used portable equipment to keep them operational. Everything was working again by Monday noon.
Baker said that although several reports had come in from citizens of possible tornados, none has been confirmed by the National Weather Service.
“It could have been a whole lot worse,” Baker said.
EOC and Citizens Information Line open
Pinellas County's Emergency Operation Center and Citizen Information Center is open. Citizens can call 464-4333 to ask questions about Tropical Storm Debby, report damage or ask for assistance.
Red Cross shelter
The American Red Cross opened one shelter in Pinellas County Sunday night at Chapel on the Hill, 12601 Park Blvd. in Seminole after the Mariners Cove Mobile Home Park in Clearwater was evacuated due to flooding.
Janet McGuire, Red Cross regional communication officer, said Monday afternoon that six people had stayed at the Chapel on the Hill shelter Sunday night. She expects them to return Monday night as flooding at the mobile home park has not abated enough for power to be restored.
She said the Red Cross is currently looking to open additional shelters in the region as needed.
“This is going to be an ongoing process,” she said. “Many roads are flooded and more rain is expected.”
About 6,300 Progress Energy customers were without power Monday morning. Progress Energy reported that since the effects of Tropical Storm Debby began Sunday, power had been restored to more than 140,000 customers throughout Progress Energy’s service area. As of 11 a.m., about 24,000 customers remained without power.
Progress Energy expects additional power outages to occur as Debby slowly makes it way toward the west coast of Florida.
Officials say that crews are coming in from areas less impacted by the storm, but said repair work is being complicated by high winds and flooding.
Customers can report power outages by calling 1-800-228-8485.
Sand bags and road closure in Clearwater
The city of Clearwater is offering free sand at the Public Works Complex, 1650 N. Arcturas Ave. Residents must bring their own bags, which can be purchased at most home improvement stores. Self-serve is located outside the fence on Arcturas Avenue. Sand will be available 24/7 while it lasts. Residents are asked to recover the sand when they’re finished. For more information, call 562-4960.
Clearwater Police Department announced that Enterprise Road between Village Drive and Frisco Drive is closed due to flooding. The water depth is between 12-inches and three feet. If no rain falls within the next three hours, officials anticipate that the road may be reopened.
Other street closures include Smallwood, Glenwood, Rosewood and Rosemere.