Commissioner-Charles-Justice-web
Charles Justice
Pinellas County Commission Chairman

The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season is here, and while a dangerous storm could strike us at any time, we must be especially vigilant over the next six months. We can’t be distracted by how many named storms the experts are predicting, or lulled into complacency during stretches of quiet weather, because it only takes one hurricane to devastate our coast.

Pinellas County was spared last October when Hurricane Michael traveled up the Gulf of Mexico and slammed into the Florida Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. Coming only a year after Hurricane Irma tested every ounce of our resiliency, Michael was another reminder that we can never let our guard down during hurricane season.

Being prepared for a hurricane is the shared responsibility all levels of government, the private sector and the public. That includes responders, schools, utilities, hospitals, nursing homes daycare centers and assisted living facilities. Government agencies prepare year-round to support our citizens, but we also depend on you to take important steps.

We are better prepared now because of Hurricane Irma. Anyone who thinks the storm wasn’t that big of a deal should remember that it mostly missed us and, yet, still caused $38 million in damages and our largest and longest power outage in decades.

It’s important to remember that preparation begins at home. The first step you can take is to know your evacuation zone so you can determine whether to evacuate if a major storm approaches. An evacuation zone is different from a flood zone in that it is based on storm surge, while a flood zone is based on the probability of flooding from heavy rain or high tides.

There are a few ways to find your evacuation zone. You can enter your address at www.pinellascounty.org/knowyourzone, or download the Pinellas County app to your smartphone. If you are a Pinellas County Utilities customer, you can find your zone on your bill issued after June 1. Evacuation orders issued by Pinellas County are for the entire county, including cities and unincorporated areas.

Here are several ways you can stay abreast of any storm threat as we go through the season:

  • Sign up for Alert Pinellas at pinellascounty.org/alertpinellas to receive emergency notifications via voice, text or email.
  • Visit our website at pinellascounty.org/emergency for hurricane news and links to evacuation maps, shelter information and more. Check for frequent updates during an emergency.
  • Sign up for E-News emails about county news at pinellascounty.org/news_subscription.htm. Select “Hurricane & Safety Newsletter – E-Alert” to receive a monthly electronic newsletter during hurricane season, as well as bulletins and instructions during emergencies.
  • Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and NextDoor. We will have updates throughout the storm.
  • Tampa Bay’s trusted media will share reliable weather reporting and updates.

Our annual All-Hazards Preparedness Guide provides a bevy of information about storm surge risks, insurance, shelters, preparing your home or business, preparing your boat, whether to get a generator, how to build an emergency preparedness kit and more. You can find it at many local government offices, libraries and other public facilities, or download it at pinellascounty.org/emergency/PDF/All_Hazard_Gulde.pdf. During a major storm, our Citizen Information Center will activate, and you can call it at (727) 464-4333.

I encourage you to take time now to make sure you and your family are prepared this summer. And as always, please feel free to reach out to me with any concerns or issues at (727) 464-3363 or cjustice@pinellascounty.org.