hurrican matthew

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 Thursday night into early Friday morning.

Pinellas County is partially activating the Emergency Operations Center on Thursday.

To help keep residents informed, the Citizen Information Center is open today, Wednesday, until 9 p.m. It will be open Thursday, Oct. 6, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Citizens 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.

On Friday afternoon, the forecast is calling for onshore winds to Clearwater Beach 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 in the day on Thursday, as further forecast information is issued. Residents are advised to stay tuned to local media outlets for additional information. Updates will be posted on the county website at www.pinellascounty.org and county’s social media with the designated hashtag #MatthewPinellas for easier information tracking.

On Monday, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for every Florida county due to the hurricane threat. With the inclusion of Pinellas County in Governor Scott’s declaration of a state of emergency on Monday, residents are now protected by the state’s price gouging law.

Pinellas County Consumer Protection encourages residents who suspect price gouging to report it to authorities.

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. Additional steps residents are asked to take include:

  • Sign up for Alert Pinellas at www.pinellascounty.org/alertpinellas 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 (www.pinellascounty.org) and county social media accounts.
  • Review additional tips and planning tools in the 2016 All Hazards Guide, available in English and Spanish at www.pinellascounty.org/emergency.
  • Know your evacuation zone: Redington Shores is in evacuation zone A.
  • 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.

Updates will be posted as available on the Pinellas County website, www.pinellascounty.org.

Since 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.

For more information on emergency preparedness, visit: www.pinellascounty.org/emergency. Residents can look up evacuation zones with the Pinellas County “Doing Things for You” app. Pinellas County complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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