PINELLAS COUNTY - The National Weather Service Hurricane Center has been busy this week trying to keep track of two major weather makers - Bonnie and Charley.
As of early this morning, both storms were slowly making their way toward the state with tropical storm Bonnie predicted to impact the Panhandle sometime today.
Hurricane Charley is expected to hit or pass close to the lower Keys and the southwest coast late tonight or early Friday before coming ashore somewhere on the west coast as a Category 1 hurricane later in the day.
A hurricane watch has been extended northward along the west coast to Anna Maria Island with the possibility of more watches and warning being issued later today.
Weather forecasts for Friday include rain chances of 100 percent, and experts say because of Charley's size, about 250 miles in width, the entire state will experience rainy and windy conditions throughout the day and evening.
Gov. Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency at noon yesterday in anticipation of the potential threat from the back-to-back storms. Pinellas County Emergency Management officials plan to partially activate the Emergency Management Operation Center at noon today. The decision on any closures of schools and other public services offices is expected by this afternoon.
"The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center indicates that Charley could pose a distinct threat to the Tampa Bay area, and Emergency Management officials are preparing to respond," states a release from the county's Emergency Management office.
Officials are advising residents to make plans now, especially those located in evacuation areas. Evacuation levels can be located by typing in an address at the county's Web site, pubgis.co.pinellas.fl.us/hurricane_txt, or by calling the Interactive Voice Response System at 453-3150.
Residents are advised to have a three to five day supply of the following items on hand:
- Water - Nonperishable foods - Medical supplies - Toiletries - Batteries - Flashlights - Battery-powered AM radio - Pet supplies
Right on schedule
Bonnie and Charley are right on schedule for the season. According to the Central Florida Hurricane Center, the peak of the season (most active time) is roughly from Aug. 15 to Sept. 30. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Bonnie and Charley are the second and third named storms thus far this year.
The latest predictions are still uncertain as to whether Bonnie will strengthen enough to be upgraded to a hurricane before making land. The storm was showing some signs of falling apart at 11 p.m. Wednesday; however, weather experts say the storm is giving mixed signals, meaning they aren't ruling out the possibility it could still become a hurricane.
The impact of Charley on the Tampa Bay area will continue to be uncertain until the storm makes its predicted turn to the northwest sometime in the next 24 hours.
Because of the unpredictable nature of these storms, residents are urged to keep tuned to the latest weather information. TBNWeekly.com will be making updates as new information becomes available. Residents also are advised to monitor their local news and weather broadcasts for information about the storm, as well as Pinellas 18 and WEOC AM940 radio.