NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco officials are recommending a voluntary evacuation today for residents in flood prone areas, with Isaac expected to strengthen into a hurricane that will dump more rain on already-saturated areas.
Officials also announced that Pasco County schools would be closed Monday, along with Pasco County government offices and the health department.
"The decision is due to the uncertain weather conditions that Tropical Storm Isaac poses early Monday and throughout the day," the county said in a prepared release.
The shutdown means no county bus service and no parks will be open.
The Fasano Regional Hurricane Shelter opened at noon today. Volunteers spent the afternoon preparing the shelter at 11611 Denton Ave., Hudson, but no evacuees had shown up by midafternoon.
"We're all hoping this ends up being just a training exercise," Red Cross shelter manager Phil Littell said.
Anyone who does not have transportation and needs assistance may call Pasco's Resident Information Center at (727) 847-2411. The phone line will be staffed until 7 p.m.
Households that have experienced historical flooding or are still recovering from Tropical Storm Debby are urged to take preventive measures (sandbags are available at 11 locations - see below). Rainfall amounts are hard to predict, but Isaac could bring 4 to 7 inches of rain in Pasco County, according to the National Weather Service.
Nichole Robson wasn't taking any chances. She enlisted her 12-year-old son, Dylan, to help her fill up sandbags this morning at the West Pasco Government Center, one of 11 locations across the county offering 20 sandbags per household.
"We just got our new carpet and everything," said Robson, whose Holiday home flooded during Debby. "We want to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Robert White and his neighbor, Scott Miller, filled up a trailer with 20 sandbags apiece. They live just south of U.S. 19 and Ridge Road, which was underwater for days after Debby struck.
"My front yard was saturated for 10 days" after Debby, White said. "The water came within 2 inches of my front door."
Miller piled the last batch of sandbags into a wheelbarrow, then carted them over to White's trailer and hurled them on the flatbed.
"We're not messing around this time," Miller said.
Isaac's maximum sustained winds have been near 65 mph, and there is potential for storm surge coincidental to high tide about 9:30 a.m. Monday at 9:30 a.m. The National Weather Service expects a surge of 2 to 5 feet, which may push seawater on some coastal roads making them temporarily impassable.
The National Weather Service also issued a flood warning for the Anclote River at Elfers, one of the hardest-hit areas from Debby. The river was at 14.9 feet this morning. It is forecast to reach 20.6 feet — several inches above flood level — by early Wednesday morning. The floodwaters are expected to recede that afternoon.
County officials urge residents to visit Pasco's Emergency Management website (www.pascocountyfl.net, select "Government," then "Emergency Management") to download a Hurricane Guide. The page contains evacuation maps, shelter information and information for special needs personnel.
Citizens can also stay updated by signing up for county news alerts by utilizing the "Notify Me" function at http://pascocountyfl.net/List.aspx. Officials are also presented updates on Pasco County TV, which is channel 622 on Bright House Networks; and channel 42 for Verizon cable subscribers.