Monday, November 20, 2017
Business

More than 9,000 evacuees and rising at Hillsborough County shelters as Irma approaches

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — More than 9,200 people have evacuated to 42 Hillsborough County shelters, County Administrator Mike Merrill said late Saturday afternoon. Almost 400 residents are now at special needs shelters, which are filling fast.

"If you're going to go to a shelter, the time is now to go," said Preston Cook, the county's director for emergency management.

The county can still open more shelters if neede, he said.

Anybody can flag a HART bus to take them to an open shelter until dusk Saturday, said HART CEO Katharine Eagan, who implored anybody who would need transportation to seek it immediately.

"We cannot guarantee that we will have a bus tomorrow," Eagan said.

The majority of Tampa Electric Co. customers could lose power after the storm, president Gordon Gillette said. He expects 300,000 to 500,000 outages out of about 700,000 customers.

Gillette warned that the company may need to force rotating blackouts before the storm. In that case, customers could see their power go out for a few minutes and then come back on. Before the storm hits, customers should not report power outages until they last at least 15 minutes.

He said the two TECO plants on the water — H.L. Culbreath Bayside Power Station and Big Bend Power Station — have storm surge doors that should protect the plants against flooding up to 18 feet.

LIVE BLOG: Latest updates on Hurricane Irma.

COMPLETE COVERAGE:Find all our coverage about Hurricane Irma here

Cook advised those evacuating to find friends or family close by, rather than attempting to drive long distances on highways. "We're not asking you to go hundreds of miles. We're asking you to go tens of miles," he said. There are already 183 people with special needs and disabilities at special needs shelters in the county, Merrill said.

Cook said the county has responded to disabled people registered with the county, but anybody who has not yet evacuated can head to a special needs shelter if they qualify. "At this point, if you haven't registered, and if you're in Zone A, you can still go to those special needs shelters that are open now, and you can get assessed on scene and granted access," Cook said.

The evacuation zones are designated by storm surge threat, he said, because storm surge is typically the most dangerous hurricane effect. He said residents need to consider the potential wind damage to mobile homes or manufactured homes, no matter their evacuation zone.

Hillsborough Fire Rescue Chief Dennis Jones said extra staff are on call for search and rescue teams throughout the county, but when the winds pick up, there will be a period when they cannot respond to calls for service.

Jones said when the winds get faster than 50 mph, HCFR will not respond to calls. Dispatchers will read from a script, telling residents that help will come when it's safe again. The agency dispersed additional boats throughout the county over the past couple days, Jones said.

"I've lived here all my life. This is the worst storm the state will face," Jones said. Buses are driving up and down evacuation routes, taking anybody to shelters for free today until 7 p.m., said Katherine Eagan, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority CEO.

Anyone, even if they're not standing at a bus stop, can flag down a HART bus, she said. They'll be out tomorrow as well, she said, but only until wind speeds reach 39 miles per hour. "Don't take too long," she pleaded.

State Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-Tampa, St. Petersburg) told his constituents to avoid underestimating the storm.

Those in mandatory evacuation zones should not try to be "brave," Rouson said. "Follow the decisions, the instructions of the law enforcement professionals, of the emergency professionals. When they tell you to evacuate, evacuate. Mandatory means mandatory," Rouson said. "If you haven't yet, please go."

Merrill said that at this point, he's most afraid of the storm becoming even more powerful. "I think the biggest fear is that the winds continue to mount, and the storm surge is greater than we expected.

My other fear is that we don't get people moved to the shelters quickly enough," he said.

Check back for updates.

Contact Langston Taylor at [email protected] Follow @langstonitaylor.

Comments
Eight women say Charlie Rose sexually harassed them - with nudity, groping and lewd calls

Eight women say Charlie Rose sexually harassed them - with nudity, groping and lewd calls

Eight women have told the Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.Th...
Updated: 4 hours ago
St. Petersburg council okays restaurant deal for Manhattan Casino

St. Petersburg council okays restaurant deal for Manhattan Casino

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council on Monday approved a lease for the Manhattan Casino, a landmark building in the city’s historic African-American business and entertainment community.It was a controversial decision for some of the city’s black resid...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

APOLLO BEACH — The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Tampa Electric $18,108 and gave the company two "serious" citations for its response to a gas leak at the Big Bend Power Station in May, the agency announced late Friday.T...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Forecast: Florida retailers expect strong holiday shopping sales

Forecast: Florida retailers expect strong holiday shopping sales

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, and this year is expected to be particularly kind to retailers.The Florida Retail Federation’s holiday shopping forecast predicts that a combination of high consumer confidence, strong tourism numbers and a littl...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

TAMPA — If you tread water too long in the same spot, someone might start asking why you’re not trying to swim somewhere.Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands — parent company of such prominent restaurant chains as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Glenn Thrush, New York Times reporter, accused of sexual misbehavior

Glenn Thrush, New York Times reporter, accused of sexual misbehavior

The New York Times said Monday that it was suspending Glenn Thrush, one of its most prominent reporters, after he was accused of sexually inappropriate behavior.The move came after the website Vox published a report containing allegations that Thrus...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Unless you are ensconced in first class, sleeping on a plane is as intimate as dozing off in a waiting room on jury duty — everyone on the aircraft knows the decibel level of your snoring and the sad state of your socks.To gauge how passengers percei...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Stolen car crashes in St. Pete, leaving passenger, 15, with life threatening injuries

Two boys in a stolen car struck a dip in the roadway and crashed into a tree, leaving the 15-year-old passenger with life-threatening injuries, St. Petersburg police said.The crash occurred about 11:25 a.m. Sunday as the car sped west on 11th Avenue ...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17

Search suspended for missing Cortez boater who left from Egmont Key

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for a missing 63-year-old boater on Sunday evening, two days after he and his dog were reported missing 5 miles northwest of Mead Point, just inland from Anna Maria Island.On Friday, Fraser Horne of Cortez le...
Published: 11/19/17