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Kriseman urges public to stay off the roads, says sewer system 'held up really well'

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, center, talks to the media Monday about the effects of Hurricane Irma on the city. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, center, talks to the media Monday about the effects of Hurricane Irma on the city. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Sep. 11, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — The city was mostly spared from the wrath of Hurricane Irma, but the danger isn't over yet.

Mayor Rick Kriseman made that point clear during a news conference Monday at the city's Water Resource department. He said the city is not aware of any lives lost due to the storm, but worried some lives could be claimed by those who come into contact with downed power lines.

"We got a little lucky here," Kriseman said. "We are better prepared for the next storm that comes."

He urged people to avoid being on the road due to high winds, traffic light outages and debris littered along the road. He said nine teams have been sent throughout the city to clean up debris.

"If you don't have to be on the road, folks, please stay off the roads for a while," he said.

Kriseman said 231 trees were reported down, and said all major roadways were passable with the exception of 54th Ave S and 31st Street. He urged people to clean up the debris, "to get our city back to normalcy quicker."

He also touched upon the city's sewage system, which has dogged Kriseman for months, throughout his reelection campaign. He said the city was not forced to discharge any water and said he was not aware of any spills at any water treatment plants.

"It held up really well," he said. He also asked that residents conserve water for the next 24 hours.

Kriseman said a reported 400,000 residents are without power in Pinellas. Jeff Baker, a manager of government and community relations at Duke Energy, said crews will be working 16-hour days to restore power, and an extra 500 people are expected to arrive in Pinellas today. He did not know when power would be restored, but crews are completing damage assessments.

Baker said several shelters and four hospitals were out of power and will likely be restored first. He encouraged residents to report outages.

About 1,500 Duke employees will be working across the city with clearly marked trucks and IDs, and will work around the outside of homes. Residents who are unsure can call the company.

St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway said he hasn't had any cases of reported scams, and urged those who are suspicious to call 911. "If it doesn't look right, just call us," he said.

Kriseman said he feared it wouldn't be another century before St. Petersburg is threatened again by a major hurricane.

Citing "our changing climate," he said, "I'm afraid this is going to happen with a lot greater frequency. What we went through for this storm prepares us all, this team and the community for the next go-around."