Potential threats from Tropical Storm Elsa has prompted Pasco and Hillsborough counties to declare a local state of emergency and also has resulted in a number of changes in local scheduling to minimize potential impacts.
Weather forecasters are warning that Tropical Storm Elsa could bring torrential rain, high winds, storm surge, isolated tornadoes and flooding.
State and local officials are urging residents and visitors to pay close attention to weather reports and to make decisions accordingly.
At the Pasco County Commission’s July 6 meeting, Laura Wilcoxen, the county’s interim director of emergency management, briefed the board on the latest information regarding Tropical Storm Elsa.
She said Elsa’s potential impacts on Pasco could be winds of up to 55 mph, storm surge of 3 feet to 5 feet, and 4 inches to 6 inches of rain.
Wilcoxen said the winds were expected to arrive around 8 p.m., on July 6, and last until 8 a.m., on July 7.
She also told the board that pumps have been deployed to known flooding areas and that 7,000 sandbags had been given out.
“Pasco is under a Tropical Storm Warning, a Storm Surge Warning and a Hurricane Watch (for the wind speed along the coastal part of the county,” Wilcoxen said, in recommending the declaration of a local state of emergency.
The county board voted unanimously to declare the emergency.
Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles said the county would not close early on July 6 and added a determination would be made later in the day regarding whether the county would open late on July 7.
Hillsborough County also has declared a state of local emergency. It planned to close its offices and facilities, effective 2 p.m., on July 6 to allow employees and customers to get home safely, according to a county news release.
The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative also announced that all libraries and book drops would close at 2 p.m., on July 6.
Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning announced that all Pasco County public schools and offices will be closed on July 6 by 3 p.m., and will remain closed all day on July 7, because of the high probability that Pasco County will experience tropical storm force conditions late Tuesday into Wednesday, according to a district news release.
The closures include the Extended School Year program, the PLACE child care program, STAR, VPK and Early Head Start. School-based activities and events planned for the afternoon of July 6 and on July 7 have been canceled, too, the release says.
The North Tampa Bay Chamber announced a noon closure on July 6, with plans to reopen at 9 a.m., on July 8.
Chamber staff planned to work remotely to provide timely updates on the storm, and impact on business and industry around the state, according to a news release.
“We are in constant communication with the state and have representation on the state emergency response team. Please stay tuned to our social media and web page for important information, at NorthTampaBayChamber.com,” the chamber’s release said.
In a July 6 morning news briefing, Gov. Ron DeSantis said there were tropical storm warnings for 22 counties along Florida’s West Coast and a hurricane watch, from Pinellas County to Dixie County.
“Storm surge will be a concern,” DeSantis said.
Flash flooding is another potential threat, the governor said, because the ground in much of North Florida and Central Florida already is saturated from above-normal rainfall over the past two weeks.
“It’s important that Floridians have their weather alerts turned on,” the governor said, noting that’s particularly important since most impacts are expected to occur overnight.
“We don’t anticipate any widespread evacuations, as a result of this storm,” DeSantis said. “We don’t anticipate that that will be necessary.”
However, the storm could cause power outages, the governor said.
“Be prepared to be without power for a few days,” DeSantis said.
He also urged people who use generators to be sure that the exhaust goes to open air. It should not be used within a home, or in a garage, or under an open window — where the fumes can drift into the home.
“The last four years, there have been more fatalities, as the result of people getting carbon monoxide poisoning, than direct impacts from the storm,” DeSantis said.
July 07, 2021