Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

Pinellas extends emergency status another week

CLEARWATER — As parts of Pinellas County continue waiting for electricity after Hurricane Irma, the County Commission voted unanimously Thursday to extend an emergency declaration until Sept. 21.

"We're just very thankful that we're all here," commission Chairwoman Janet Long said.

The commission issued the declaration last week as the first step to ordering the evacuation of residents from mobile homes and low-lying areas. It will expire next week.

Assistant County Administrator John Bennett said the extension will allow Pinellas to meet federal guidelines for reimbursement of some storm costs and to keep protections in place to prevent price-gouging. The order would also maintain continuity in the ongoing storm cleanup between the county and its cities.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri praised all county workers and the agencies that partnered with the county to prepare for the storm and handle the aftermath. He said it was the best work the county has done for residents in his 35 years of public service. But he cautioned there's room for improvement.

"I've never seen such a coordinated effort across the board," he said. "Everybody worked at the best of their abilities and to their highest levels."

Officials also offered an update on Pinellas' response and recovery:

County Administrator Mark Woodard told commissioners that coastal Pinellas fared well because the storm surge fell short of forecast levels of about 10 feet.

"We were very fortunate with respect to storm surge," he said. "That actual impact was in the 1- to 3-feet range."

Long asked how many of the 160,000 residents left Zone A — the low-lying areas and mobile homes — when the county issued the evacuation order on Sept. 8, a Friday. Officials could not provide precise numbers, but believe most of those residents left after Zone B was told to evacuate on Saturday.

"When we went to (Zone) B, it lit up the county," Bennett said. "It went better than expected."

Long also wanted to know if the county talked with Duke Energy to find out why Pinellas' electrical systems suffered so much damage even though the Tampa Bay region was spared the brunt of the storm.

Those discussions will occur in an "after-action plan" in the coming weeks and months, Bennett said. Duke and the county, Bennett said, will each have to find ways to "harden" critical infrastructures.

"Every storm has its own personality," Bennett said.

Gualtieri reported that nearly 200 intersections still lacked electricity for traffic signals.

"Everything is now under control," he said. "As power comes on, we'll continue to get better."

Commissioner Ken Welch said there will be plenty of time to assess what the county can do to better prepare for the next storm. He thanked staffers for keeping residents informed during Irma.

"The communication was exceptional," Welch said.

Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente

 
Comments
NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Carson Wentz's injury drops Eagles out of top five

NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Carson Wentz's injury drops Eagles out of top five

What follows below is a ranking of all 32 NFL teams. To build this list, we consulted five objective measures of team strength: Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System, Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average ratings...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Poll: Most Americans say 'Merry Christmas' and prefer Rudolph over Charlie Brown

Poll: Most Americans say 'Merry Christmas' and prefer Rudolph over Charlie Brown

The Monmouth University Polling institute released the results of their Christmas poll today.
Updated: 2 minutes ago
Social worker fired from Bay Pines calls it retaliation for complaints of harassment

Social worker fired from Bay Pines calls it retaliation for complaints of harassment

Chalea Weekes fumes each time she sees another entertainer, politician or public figure stand accused of sexual harassment.Fired from her job in the social work department at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, Weekes says in federal complaints that ...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Rick and Tom podcast: Dirk Koetter, Evan Longoria, Stanley Cup and more

Rick and Tom podcast: Dirk Koetter, Evan Longoria, Stanley Cup and more

In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones answer a lightning round of questions. Will Dirk Koetter be the Bucs’ coach next year? Where will Evan Longoria be on Opening Day? Will the Lightning win the Stanley Cup? Who will be better next year...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida Missing Child Alert canceled for Jacksonville boy, 2

Florida Missing Child Alert canceled for Jacksonville boy, 2

A Jacksonville boy, 2, who was reported missing early Thursday morning, has been found safe.A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for Legend Jones, who had last been seen in the 1900 block of Fouraker Road in Jacksonville, according to the ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Be ready for busy roads and airports: 5.6 million Floridians to travel for the holidays

Be ready for busy roads and airports: 5.6 million Floridians to travel for the holidays

A record-breaking number of Americans are expected to travel during the holiday season next week, according to a AAA report released Thursday.The travel company projects 107.3 million Americans will pack their bags and leave their homes between Dec. ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Here’s who’ll benefit, and who might not, if net neutrality is repealed as expected

Here’s who’ll benefit, and who might not, if net neutrality is repealed as expected

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission is expected to repeal net neutrality rules Thursday, a move that will likely have major implications for internet service providers, startups and consumers.The hotly contested move centers on a set o...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa chamber of commerce evolves to take on more policy challenges

Tampa chamber of commerce evolves to take on more policy challenges

TAMPA — A couple of the ways the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce has changed — evolved, really — will be on view today at the organization’s 132nd annual meeting at the Tampa Convention Center.But first, recall what the chamber used to be."A coffee...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Disney buying large part of 21st Century Fox in $52.4 billion deal

Disney buying large part of 21st Century Fox in $52.4 billion deal

NEW YORK — Disney is buying a large part of the Murdoch family’s 21st Century Fox for about $52.4 billion in stock, including film and television studios and cable and international TV businesses, as it tries to meet competition from technology compa...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Joe Henderson: Recent cold snap brings to mind the Big Chill of Christmas ‘89

Joe Henderson: Recent cold snap brings to mind the Big Chill of Christmas ‘89

You know that little snap of frigid — OK, chilly — weather we just had? In Florida, we call that winter, a season we typically measure in hours.If it’s really savage, the thermometer might not rise above 50 degrees for two or sometimes three whole da...
Updated: 3 hours ago