Pinellas Co. preps for storm, possible flooding

Haley Hinds reports

- In Pinellas County, people are not only taking steps to protect their homes on land, they're also making sure their boats are able to weather the storm.

"Prepare for the worst and hope for the best," said Captain Jeff Gearhart of Parrotdise Express Boat Tours.

Gearhart docked his vessels Tuesday at Dunedin Marina and got to work. For him, shielding his boats from the approaching storm also means preserving his livelihood.

"Just putting extra lines onboard, making sure everything is tied good, making sure there is enough slack in the lines for the storm surge and things like that," Gearhart said. "The smaller boat, since that thing gets rocking and rolling a little bit, the marina was kind enough that they provided a slip inside for us so we weren't bouncing around getting all beat up."

The U.S. Coast Guard is warning boaters to stay off the water until the storm passes, saying that sailing in those conditions could put lives, including those of emergency responders, at risk.

On land, it's a rush to protect homes and properties.

"We are near Allen's Creek. It does get wet. It does fill pretty quickly so we are a little concerned," said Tom Flora of Clearwater as he filled up sandbags.

Sandbagging sites are set up throughout Pinellas County. They provide the supplies, you just have to get them home, however you choose.

"This is a 2016 Corvette Stingray," said Brien Childs of Largo, "and, it is a great vehicle to move sandbags as you can see. We can do ten at a time and then, we come back and forth."

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is asking people to think "safety first" this week. That means not taking unnecessary risks and driving through flood water.

When it comes to water use, Kriseman is asking people to consider scheduling heavy water-use activities such as running the washing machine or dishwasher before the storm hits or several days after the storm passes. He also suggests limiting optional water usage during and immediately after the storm, without risking health or neglecting hygiene.

"Yes, I am worried about it," Childs said. "You can never underestimate your opponent."

It's yet another drill of hurricane season. But even a veteran of Florida's storms will tell you, "Better safe than sorry."

"Friday, we plan to be back in business and getting out there and having some fun," Gearhart said.

As of yet, no announcements have been made about school closings Thursday in Pinellas County. That call will be made Wednesday after district officials consult with the County Emergency Operations Center. 

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