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Pinellas changes hurricane evacuation zones for 93,000 residents

The county is using updated storm surge models and elevation data. Here’s how to check your zone.
Flooded furniture and personal belongings of Diane Carr, 59, lie in her yard the morning after Tropical Storm Eta at the Twin City Manufactured Home Community in St. Petersburg. Eta flooded thousands of properties in Pinellas County in November 2020.
Flooded furniture and personal belongings of Diane Carr, 59, lie in her yard the morning after Tropical Storm Eta at the Twin City Manufactured Home Community in St. Petersburg. Eta flooded thousands of properties in Pinellas County in November 2020. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 18|Updated May 18

About 93,000 people in Pinellas County have a new hurricane evacuation zone.

Roughly 34,000 properties have shifted to higher-risk zones, according to the county, while 13,600 are in lower-risk zones.

The changes touch many areas. A county map shows hot spots for people moving to higher risk zones include Tarpon Springs, Oldsmar and Gulfport. Pinellas Park is among the places where some residents were moved to lower-risk evacuation zones.

Related: Own or rent a home in flood-prone Florida? Here’s some advice.

Evacuation zones are determined based on the potential for storm surge to flood a neighborhood. They should not be confused with flood zones, which dictate insurance requirements and are set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Pinellas cited updated surge models from the National Hurricane Center and new county elevation data as reasons for the adjustment.

Residents can check their evacuation zones at storm.pinellascounty.org. County officials will list the information on the next round of utility bills, too. People who live on properties with landlines can call 727-453-3150 to learn their zone.

“Knowing your evacuation zone is one of the most important steps in preparing for hurricane season, and it could save your life,” said Pinellas Emergency Management Director Cathie Perkins in a statement.

Related: It won’t take the ‘perfect storm’ to wreak havoc across Tampa Bay

Evacuation levels range from Zone A (the riskiest) to Zone E. When a storm bears down, the county will order people to evacuate by zone. People in manufactured homes and recreational vehicles are supposed to leave if any evacuations are ordered, regardless of which zone they live in, the county said.

The Tampa Bay region is prone to big storm surges, a danger described in a recent Tampa Bay Times series called “Rising Threat.” Even minor hurricanes can cause devastating floods. In 2020, Tropical Storm Eta brushed by the region but still flooded thousands of properties. Sea level rise is steadily making storm surges worse, causing floods to reach higher and travel farther inland.

Forecasters from Colorado State University have predicted an above-average hurricane season around the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico this year. Their initial forecast is for 19 named storms, including four major storms and nine hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected to announce its hurricane outlook next week.

Related: Tampa Bay has huge flood risk. What should we do about it?
• • •

Find your evacuation zone

There are three ways Pinellas residents can check their evacuation zones:

  • Check the address online at storm.pinellascounty.org.
  • Properties with landlines only can call 727-453-3150.
  • Check county utility bills starting in May.
• • •

To pick up a Pinellas County All Hazards Preparedness Guide for this hurricane season, check your local libraries, county offices or municipal buildings, or find it online at storm.pinellascounty.org.

• • •

2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

IT’S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Seven hurricane myths that need to go away

BACK-UP YOUR DATA: Protect your data, documents and photos

BUILD YOUR HURRICANE KIT: Gear up — and mask up — before the storm hits

PROTECT YOUR PETS: Here’s how to keep your pets as safe as you

NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter

• • •

Rising Threat: A special report on flood risk and climate change

PART 1: The Tampa Bay Times partnered with the National Hurricane Center for a revealing look at future storms.

PART 2: Even weak hurricanes can cause huge storm surges. Experts say people don’t understand the risk.

PART 3: Tampa Bay has huge flood risk. What should we do about it?

INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the hurricane flood risk

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