PINELLAS COUNTY - Just about 24 hours after it was initiated, the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners agreed to lift the Level C Evacuation order that had been in effect since 6 p.m. Thursday.
In a press conference broadcast on Pinellas Channel 18, county administrator Steve Spratt announced that residents could go back home. Spratt outlined the conditions under which the county commissioners had agreed to lift the evacuation order, including allowing people currently in shelters to remain until 7 a.m. Also, people who arrived in transportation arranged by municipality emergency personnel must coordinate with that municipality before leaving to allow for accounting of all residents.
Spratt said the declaration of emergency would continue in effect until midnight tomorrow to allow emergency personnel to complete the demobilization process, which includes coordination of transportation sources used during the initial evacuation process.
Spratt said the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office had announced that the bridges to the Barrier Islands had been reopened. Westbound traffic has been restricted on the bridges since this afternoon.
Less than 6 hours after county commissioners approved an Emergency Executive Order imposing a dusk-to-dawn curfew, the order was rescinded.
Spratt fielded questions about the actions taken by the county in dealing with the threat from Hurricane Charley. Spratt admitted that there was always a degree of risk in making decisions concerning dangerous weather conditions.
"But we'd rather err on the side of being inconvenienced for 24 hours for safety's sake," he said.
Spratt pointed out that the alternative could have been the possibility of casualties for many county residents.
He said the county would continue to use the National Hurricane Center for advice in making its decisions and described the agency as the "most reliable source we have."
"Charley reached landfall at 3:45 p.m. EDT, when the eye passed over the barrier islands between Fort Myers and Punta Gorda, some 110 miles southeast of the Tampa Bay area that includes Tampa and St. Petersburg," states a report on admin.winktv.com, the Web site for WinkTV in Lee County. All other TV Internet sites seemed to be out of service as of 6 p.m.
Damage reports listed on the WinkTV site include downed power lines, downed trees, roofs and awnings blown off homes, flooding and debris.