PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – With Hurricane Idalia continuing to intensify in the Gulf of Mexico, Pinellas County residents should make final preparations for the storm.
Those evacuating should plan to be safely situated by around 7 p.m. Residents staying home should make sure they have medications, water, batteries, important papers and other hurricane kit supplies.
Everyone is advised to stay off the roads after 7 p.m. until storm conditions subside.
High winds and rain are expected to make travel unsafe tonight, and emergency responders may not be able to immediately help once wind speeds become dangerous.
Pinellas County emergency planners are concerned that some may underestimate the storm because the county is not currently in the forecast cone.
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Even if Idalia stays on the current track and passes to the west of the Tampa Bay area, Pinellas County will likely be exposed to the most dangerous side of the storm. The National Hurricane Center is still forecasting four to seven feet of storm surge, which would result in water inundation in many homes in coastal and low-lying areas that are part of the mandatory evacuation for Zone A.
“The cone does not tell you the whole story for where the impacts of this storm are,” Emergency Management Director Cathie Perkins said. “The outer bands extend much further out. We are still expecting storm surge in our area, we are still expecting Tropical Storm force and perhaps some hurricane force winds here in Pinellas County.”
Currently, Hurricane Idalia’s winds extend outward up to 160 miles from the storm’s center.
Advice for residents and visitors
- Pinellas County is under a mandatory evacuation order for Zone A and mobile home residents. Anyone in this category should pack a bag and leave now for a safe place outside the evacuation zone. Evacuees are encouraged to stay with a friend or family if possible, or at a hotel on higher ground, but if needed, 10 public shelters are available. Three of these shelters are pet-friendly, and three can accommodate special needs residents.
- PSTA busses, currently offering free transportation to Pinellas County shelters, will stop service at 5 p.m. Special needs transportation will also end at 5 p.m.
- Uber is offering free round-trip rides to Pinellas County shelters up to $35.
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For instructions on how to get the free trip
o Open the Uber app
o Tap “Account” on the bottom right
o Tap “Wallet”
o Scroll down to “+ Add Promo Code”
o Enter code IDALIARELIEF
o Select any of the state-approved Florida evacuation shelters
If you are a visitor, follow local instructions, evacuate when advised, and seek safe shelter outside the evacuation zone. Hotel availability information can be found at: https://www.visitstpeteclearwater.com/info/pre-storm-information
If evacuating, lock all doors and turn off your utilities before you leave.
Heavy rainfall and storm surge with higher-than-normal tides are expected to cause flooding in low-lying and coastal areas overnight and tomorrow morning.
Flooding may occur even after the winds have subsided on Wednesday.
Residents staying home should bring in any loose yard items, put up shutters if available, lower antennas, and clear areas near storm drains. If you are in a low-lying or coastal area, elevate items off the floor and move vehicles to higher ground. Electric vehicles should be moved outside of storm surge areas.
Based on projected wind speeds, widespread power outages are likely. Report downed lines or outages to Duke Energy: (800) 228-8485. Do not call 911 for power outages.
Don’t drive in flooded areas. Wake from vehicles traveling on flooded roads causes more property damage than the rising water alone.
Don’t play in floodwaters as they contain potential health hazards and hidden dangers including bacteria, dangerous wildlife and submerged hazards that could entangle a person or pet, leading to drowning.
Follow local media outlets, tune in to NOAA weather radio stations and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor. Pinellas County preparedness information can be found at disaster.pinellas.gov.
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