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Pinellas County
Pinellas launches storm surge education campaign
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Photo courtesy PINELLAS COUNTY COMMUNICATIONS
One of the county’s new storm surge signs is located at the entrance of Osceola High School on 98th Street North in Seminole. The sign shows how high the water could reach due to storm surge from a major hurricane.
A tropical depression formed on the 31st day of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season. Later that day, it became the season’s first named storm.

Tropical Storm Arthur quickly gained strength and the National Hurricane Center upgraded its status to a Category 1 hurricane on July 3. On Independence Day, the NHC reported that Arthur had become a Category 2 hurricane. Arthur made landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina July 4 with wind gusts of more than 100 mph.

Hurricane season began June 1 and continues through Nov. 30.

The NHC categorizes hurricanes based on wind speed according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. A tropical storm has maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph. A Category 1 hurricane has winds between 74 and 95 mph; Category 2, 96-110 mph; Category 3, 111-130 mph; Category 4, 131-155 mph; and a Category 5, the top of the list, has maximum sustained winds of 156 mph and up.

However, despite that focus on wind speeds, the bigger risk really comes from storm surge, which occurs when water is pushed toward the shore by the force of hurricane-force winds.

“The greatest potential for loss of life related to a hurricane is from storm surge,” according to retired NHC meteorologist Brian Jarvinen.

At least 1,500 lives were lost during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 due to storm surge.

Storm surge also causes extensive damage. Any structure not designed to withstand its force most likely would be destroyed, as bombardment from waves and currents cause foundations to weaken and fail. Storm surge also severely erodes beaches and coastal roadways.

Residences and businesses located on Pinellas County’s barrier islands are the most vulnerable. But, inland areas are not immune from the effects. Salt water can intrude into estuaries and bayous. Animals, including snakes, often take refuge in urban areas to escape the rising waters.

Many factors play a part in just how high the water could reach in any given location.

Educating the public

Pinellas County’s Emergency Management recently completed an 18-month grant program with installation of storm surge awareness signs at 38 locations near county schools and school-related facilities. The signs demonstrate the area’s vulnerability and show how much surge could occur if a major hurricane were to hit.

A major hurricane is a Category 3 or higher.

Storm surge awareness signs have been placed near the following schools:

• Bayside High School, 14405 49th St. N., Clearwater

• Belcher Elementary School, 1156 Lakeview Road, Clearwater

• Clearwater Intermediate School, 1220 Palmetto St. Clearwater

• Frontier Elementary School, 6995 Hopedale Lane, Clearwater

• PTEC North, 6100 154th Ave. N., Clearwater

• San Jose Elementary School, 1670 San Helen Drive, Dunedin

• Fuguitt Elementary School, 13010 101st St., Largo

• Gus Stavros Center, 12200 Starkey Road, Largo

• Walsingham /Southern Oaks Elementary Schools, 9101 Walsingham Road, Largo

• Madeira Beach Fundamental School, 591 Tom Stuart Causeway, Madeira Beach

• Forest Lakes Elementary School, 301 Pine Ave. N, Oldsmar

• Oldsmar Elementary School, 302 W Dartmouth Ave., Oldsmar

• Cypress Wood Elementary School, 4900 Cypress Woods Blvd., Palm Harbor

• Ozona Elementary School, 601 Tampa Road, Palm Harbor

• Cross Bayou Elementary School, 6886 102nd Ave. N, Pinellas Park

• Marjorie Rawlings Elementary School, 6505 68th St. N, Pinellas Park

• Nina Harris ESE School, 6000 70th Ave. N., Pinellas Park

• Pinellas Park Elementary School, 7520 52nd St. N., Pinellas Park

• Pinellas Park Middle School, 6940 70th Ave. N., Pinellas Park              

• Pinellas Secondary School, 8570 66th St. N., Pinellas Park

• Skyview Elementary School, 8601 60th St. N., Pinellas Park

• Safety Harbor Elementary School, 535 Fifth Ave. N., Safety Harbor      

• Bay Vista Fundamental School, 5900 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S., St. Petersburg

• Lakewood Elementary School, 4151 Sixth St. S, St. Petersburg

• Lakewood High School, 1400 54th Ave. S., St. Petersburg

• Lynch Elementary School, 1901 71st Ave. N, St. Petersburg

• Meadowlawn Middle School, 6050 16th St. N., St. Petersburg

• North Shore Elementary School, 200 35th Ave. N.E., St. Petersburg

• Sawgrass Elementary School, 1815 77th Ave. N., St. Petersburg          

• Shore Acres Elementary School, 1800 62nd Ave. N.E., St. Petersburg 

• Osceola High School, 9751 98th St. N., Seminole

• Osceola Middle School, 9301 98th St. N., Seminole

• Starkey Elementary School, 9300 86th Ave., Seminole

• East Lake High School, 1300 Silver Eagle Drive, Tarpon Springs

• Sunset Hills Elementary School, 1347 Gulf Road, Tarpon Springs       

• Tarpon Springs Elementary School, 555 E. Pine St., Tarpon Springs   

• Tarpon Springs Fundamental Schools, 400 E Harrison St., Tarpon Springs          

• Tarpon Springs High School, 1411 S Gulf Road, Tarpon Springs

The NHC used an experimental potential storm surge flooding map for the first-time ever in its forecasts for Hurricane Arthur. The map shows geographical areas where storm surge could occur along with how high above ground the water could reach. Areas are represented in different colors, with blue representing 3 feet above the ground at the low end and red, showing areas where the water could reach 9 feet above ground at the top.

County staff is nearly finished with a storm surge illustration application designed to show residents what storm surge will look like at their address during different evacuation levels. 

For more information on hurricane preparedness, call Emergency Management at 464-3800 or visit www.pinellascounty.org/emergency.
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