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Keep informed: The latest on Ivan and Frances
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The county's Emergency Operation's Center (EOC) is advising residents to be prepared for possible high tides as part of Hurricane Ivan's "parting shot to Pinellas County."

"Hurricane Ivan is currently due west of Pinellas County, continuing its northwesterly track in the Gulf of Mexico with landfall likely to occur in the early morning hours near Mobile Bay," according to a statement from the EOC on Wednesday. "A Coastal Flood Watch is in effect for our area and several coastal communities are reporting minor flooding in roadways."

National Weather Service Watches

The NWS has issued a Coastal Flood Watch for Pinellas County and other areas along the Gulf coast until 5 p.m. Thursday. Forecasters say Ivan's strong winds on the east side of the storm will cause water levels to run 2 to 4 feet above normal Wednesday night into Thursday.

The NWS also issued a High Surf Advisory that includes Pinellas County until 5:30 p.m. Thursday. According to the advisory, "the storm is generating large swells of over 12 feet that will bring dangerous water action along the coast and area beaches".

Rough surf, large breaking waves, strong undertow and rip currents can be expected, according to the NWS. A rip current is a 10 to 30 yard wide channel of water than can pull even a strong swimmer into deeper water, the advisory explains. People are advised to avoid beaches with no lifeguard and to not swim near piers, jetties or inlets and to not go into surf much above the knees.

The NWS advises if caught in a rip tide to not attempt to move directly toward shore. Instead, move sideways across the rip current until the pull eases. Another method of escape is to let the rip current pull you seaward for 50 to 100 yards where the force weakens. Then swim toward the beach at an angle away from the current.

County still struggling to clean up after Frances

County officials are encouraging residents to set out tree debris now as tree and yard storm debris is currently being picked up in unincorporated areas. Residents are urged to place materials to be hauled away at the curb for pick-up.

"Even though the collection process will take a few weeks, debris must be placed at the curb now for this one-time free debris removal," a release from the county says. "Construction debris or other garbage will not be collected as part of this program and yard debris in bags placed at the curb will be picked up separately from debris placed in a pile. Piles of tree debris should be placed away from mailboxes or other obstructions so the equipment can easily reach it."

Residents can drop off tree and yard storm debris at the Solid Waste Operations, 3095 114th Avenue North between the hours or 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. through Sept. 17, and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18.

The landfill facility will be closed on Sunday, Sept.19, and will return to regular hours of operation on Monday, Sept. 20.

Three temporary citizen debris drop-off sites will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. until further notice. Those sites are located at:

Keystone Road and East Lake Road (on southeast corner)

Belcher Road and 118th Avenue (on northwest corner)

4300 28th St. N. (about 400 feet north of 42nd Avenue North)

As a reminder, the temporary debris drop-off locations are not for the use of businesses such as landscaping companies or lawn services.

Clearwater continues to collect storm debris

CLEARWATER - In an effort to continue the clean up from Hurricane Frances, the city of Clearwater's Solid Waste Department, with assistance from Parks and Recreation and Public Services, is continuing to pick up brush and storm debris. Daily, the department has been systematically covering the city and is asking for continued patience from area residents while the recovery efforts continue. As of Wednesday, about 50 percent of Clearwater's residents had been served.

Black barrel trash pickup and recycling is continuing on normally scheduled days. Call 562-4920.
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