Pinellas officials on Wednesday morning advised residents to expect continued flooding throughout the day as the area faces storm surge and high tides caused by Hurricane Idalia.
The Gulf beaches and west side of the county in particular are experiencing severe flooding that’s expected to get worse as the area experiences storm surge and high tide, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a 9 a.m. news conference.
When Gualtieri went to evaluate conditions on the Gulf beaches, he had to turn around because there was water and sand on the road.
“It’s not a good situation on the Gulf beaches,” he said.
The barrier islands are currently closed, Gualtieri said, and residents who leave will not be able to return until they are reopened. The sheriff urged residents to avoid the west side of the county and said with continued flooding, the roads might not be cleared until late Wednesday afternoon.
“We will work diligently to get the roads back open as soon as we can,” he said. “But we’re not going to be able to do that until the water clears.”
Emergency Management Director Cathie Perkins reported 55 road closures throughout the county and more than 20,000 power outages.
Perkins said there were more than 1,800 people in Pinellas County shelters last night, including about 180 special needs residents. She said the shelters will remain open for now, and encouraged residents to stay with family and friends or go to a shelter if they need to leave a flooded area.
Perkins also advised residents to turn off the breakers to their homes before water gets into their houses, if they anticipate flooding, and to take pictures of damage for their insurance companies.
She also asked residents to stay off the roads until officials could clear them for safety, and warned them not to walk in floodwaters, which could contain bacteria, downed power lines and other hazards.
“You may be tempted to go outside once the winds start to subside, but we do expect continued flooding and storm surge in our low-lying and coastal areas,” she said.
• • •