Pinellas under Tropical Storm Watch
The National Weather Service has issued a tropical storm watch for Pinellas County because of the possible effects of Hurricane Matthew.
PINELLAS COUNTY – Pinellas County is now under a tropical storm watch, with the National Weather Service forecasting sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph and occasional storm bands with 40 to 55 mph wind gusts, similar to summer thunderstorms. These conditions are expected to begin late tonight (Oct. 6) into early Friday morning.
Pinellas County will partially activate its emergency operations center today.
To help keep residents informed, the Citizen Information Center will be open today from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Residents may call (727) 464-4333 for general information.
According to the official forecast from the National Weather Service, the predicted track of Hurricane Matthew can still change, which could further increase the expected wind speeds. However, the amount of rainfall is predicted to be minimal and there is no forecast for storm surge. Pinellas County will not be issuing sandbags.
The forecast is calling for onshore winds to Clearwater Beach on Friday (Oct. 7) afternoon, causing a high risk of rip currents, wave run up and causing possible beach erosion.
Because the National Weather Service cannot rule out another shift in the track, the county expects to make additional decisions about any needed actions early today as further forecast information is issued.
Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday (Oct. 5) for every Florida county because of the hurricane threat. With the inclusion of Pinellas County in Scott’s declaration, residents are now protected by the state’s price gouging law.
Effective only during a declared state of emergency, the price gouging law prohibits sharp increases in the price of essential commodities, such as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment that is needed as a direct result of an officially declared emergency. Violators are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation, up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period.
Residents who suspect price gouging can report it to Pinellas County Consumer Protection at (727) 464-6200 or use the Attorney General’s hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.
During a declared state of emergency, restrictions on refilling medications early are suspended by state law. This law requires all insurers and managed-care organizations to suspend refill-too-soon restrictions when a patient seeks a refill.
Residents are reminded to review and finalize preparedness plans. Some of the recommended steps residents are asked to take include:
• Sign up for Alert Pinellas to receive emergency notifications via phone, email or text message.
• Stay tuned for weather updates through weather alert radios, local media outlets, the county website and county social media accounts.
• Review additional tips and planning tools in the 2016 All Hazards Guide, available in English and Spanish.
• Know your evacuation zone, which can be found online or by downloading the Pinellas County Doing Things mobile app.
• Review disaster plans for your family, business and property.
• Get your survival kit and important papers ready. Purchase any items you will need to complete your survival kit now to avoid long lines and limited supplies.
• If you have special needs, be sure your caregiver begins to implement your plan. If you have no other options, register for special needs shelters by calling Emergency Management at (727) 582-2600 or by contacting the local fire department.
Because October is historically the third busiest month for hurricane development, Emergency Management officials urge residents to remain vigilant throughout the hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30.
Residents are advised to stay tuned to local media outlets for additional information. Updates will be posted on the county website at pinellascounty.org and county’s social media with the designated hashtag #MatthewPinellas for easier information tracking.
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