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More than 395,000 people without power in Pinellas County

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

(Updated) More than 395,000 Duke Energy customers in Pinellas County are without electricity following Hurricane Irma’s entry Sunday night and Monday morning. That’s 70 percent of Duke’s service area in Pinellas County.

(On Tuesday afternoon, Duke officials said that of their 1.2  million customers throughout Florida, 375,000 have had their power restored. They did not say how many of those customers were in Pinellas. Duke Energy provides power to 35 different counties in Florida).

Approximately 120 pump stations are also without power, which could cause sewer overflows. Woodard said he had “preliminary reports” that some of Pinellas’ 24 cities are also suffering some similar problems at pump stations.

“Please don’t flush your toilets, please don’t run a load of laundry or a load of dishes in your dishwasher,” warned Mark Woodard, Pinellas County Administrator at a briefing at the county’s Emergency Operations Center in Largo on Monday. “Do all that you can to avoid putting water into the drain because that will just additional burden to our systems and could enhance the opportunity and probability of sewer overflows.”

Duke Energy has mobilized 8,000 workers in the region to help for the response and recovery efforts.

Though not nearly as dangerous as predicted for the region, it was “an impactful storm, nonetheless,” Woodward said. He urged residents to stay off the roads today if possible.

Those power outages on Sunday night included at seven of the country’s 17 shelters, including at the Dunedin Highland Middle School, a shelter for people with special needs requiring oxygen. Pinellas County personnel responded in restoring backup generator power when the winds were their fiercest, said Woodard. “I appreciated the work of those dedicated public servants,” he said.

The county received 8-9 inches of rainfall and endured 80 mile per hour winds as the Category 2 hurricane hit the region. There was a storm surge of only 1-3 feet, remarkably less than what was predicted in the days ahead of landfall.

Public work crews are currently conducting a damage assessment report, Woodard told reporters.There are no major flooding or road closures in Pinellas County at this time.

Approximately 120 pump stations are without power, which could cause sewer overflows. Woodard said he had “preliminary reports” that some of Pinellas’ 24 cities are also suffering some similar problems at pump stations.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the biggest issue for his department in Irma’s aftermath was dealing with the 41 separate intersections in unincorporated Pinellas where traffic signals are not working. There are another 20-25 in Largo, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tarpon Springs and Pinellas Park that are also uncontrolled. Sheriff Deputies were being reallocated to do traffic control at those intersections.

“Treat them as a four-way stop,” Guatlieri said when asked how should motorists approach those intersections. “That’s what state law is. I also think it’s an application of common sense.”

There was one looting incident of a store in Palm Harbor. Those involved were not arrested. Gualtieri said that the dept. did not have their full resources (such as helicopter or K9’s available at the time) to catch the assailants.

There have been no reported fatalities in Pinellas County.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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