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Pinellas, Hillsborough issue states of emergency as Elsa approaches

Pinellas’ measure will let the county government take steps like purchasing goods and spending public funds more quickly.
The Pinellas County Board of Commissioners approved a state of emergency Sunday, helping the county government respond to Tropical Storm Elsa.
The Pinellas County Board of Commissioners approved a state of emergency Sunday, helping the county government respond to Tropical Storm Elsa. [ MATTHEW GRIFFIN | Matthew Griffin ]
Published Jul. 4
Updated Jul. 6

The Pinellas County Board of Commissioners on Sunday approved a state of emergency in advance of Tropical Storm Elsa, which is projected to reach the Tampa Bay area overnight Tuesday.

The state of emergency will let the county government take steps like purchasing goods and spending public funds more quickly, County Attorney Jewel White said at a Sunday emergency meeting where commissioners voted on the measure. It is effective immediately and will last until 4 p.m. next Sunday, July 11, unless the officials choose to end it early.

“Hopefully we won’t need to use it, but we have it in place,” County Administrator Barry Burton said. “Because as of tomorrow when things start to change, if it changes, then we have the tools in hand to react accordingly.”

The board approved the state of emergency in an unanimous vote.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Saturday issued a state of emergency that covers the Tampa Bay area, among others stretches of state coastline, and will let the state government mobilize resources and respond if needed.

Manatee and Hillsborough counties also declared states of emergency Sunday. Manatee will officially activate its emergency operations center on Monday morning. Hillsborough’s order is in effect through July 11.

Pasco County was still closely monitoring the path of Elsa, but had not activated emergency operations yet.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said city officials are keeping a close eye on Elsa’s development in a Sunday afternoon press conference.

“We’re looking at high winds and rain in Tampa, possibly some time on Tuesday,” she said.

Castor said they’ll decide on Monday if city-run parks and government buildings will close ahead of the storm. “We don’t anticipate that’s going to happen,” she said.

In preparation for Elsa, the city has drained retention ponds and water levels in the dam down the Hillsborough River for flooding and storm surge.

Elsa is the fifth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. It could bring gusty winds and heavy rain when it reaches the Tampa Bay area. The storm briefly reached hurricane strength as it hit the Caribbean, leaving three dead. It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.

The storm is projected to cross Cuba on Monday, and what happens when it moves across the island could affect how it impacts the Tampa Bay area.

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