Pumping stations in St. Petersburg continue to not have power so Mayor Rick Kriseman is calling on residents to avoid using any running water over the next 24 hours.
“You all in the community did really well conserving water when we asked you to,” Kriseman said late Monday morning. “We’re going to ask you to do it just for another 24 hours, as we continue to work through getting everything back online.”
“If you can conserve your water that would be really helpful to us,” the mayor added.
Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard said earlier that approximately 120 pump stations throughout the county were also without power due to the storm.
“Please don’t flush your toilets, please don’t run a load of laundry or a load of dishes in your dishwasher,” warned Woodard. “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.”
Problems with sewage overflows from previous storms in 2015 and 2016 have morphed into a political issue for Kriseman this summer in his bid for reelection. Former Mayor Rick Baker has made Kriseman’s handling of those sewer problems a major focus of his campaign.
The Mayor later tweeted, “No Irma wastewater discharges. No spills, overflows at any facilities. Crews assessing minor manhole overflows from lift station outage.”
City Councilman Karl Nurse, a supporter of Kriseman for mayor, said that while the mayor was criticized by some for hiring public information staffers for social media and the water department, those hirings have paid off.
“I know that this city got some blowback over the last couple of years about hiring people for communications, I can tell from my neighbors from using Next Door and social media how much they appreciate the information.”
The mayor acknowledged what everyone in the Tampa Bay area was saying Monday: St. Pete got lucky by avoiding the brunt of Irma. He said that what was apparent after Irma was that his department officials are more prepared than ever for the next potential major storm that comes, as is the public following Hurricane Harvey’s devastation on Houston and Southeast Texas last month.
A firm believer in climate change, Kriseman said he didn’t expect to wait very long for the next so-called “one-hundred year storm” to hit St. Petersburg. “I’m afraid that this is going to happen with a lot greater frequency,” he said.
Kriseman said there were a number of heroes who are helping St. Pete deal with the aftermath of Irma, including the Tampa Bay Rays, who have handed over the keys to Tropicana Field for the city to use for vehicle storage. The team was scheduled to host the New York Yankees tonight in St. Pete, but those games have been moved to Citi Field in New York City.
Also on hand for the press conference was Duke Energy’s Jeff Baker. He said that while there were no fatalities in Pinellas County due to Irma, historically he has seen deaths occur the day after such a natural disaster when families misuse generators by connecting it inside their home.
“If you have a generator, make sure that it’s properly installed and make sure that it’s fully ventilated as well,” he said.
With more than 395,000 Duke Energy customer without power, Baker was unable to give a timetable about when those citizens will have their power restored. He said that crews will be working 16-hour days for the duration, and that 500 of the 8,000 personnel brought to Georgia and Florida for the aftermath of Irma will be in Pinellas County on Monday.
The mayor said that after the cleanup of Irma has been completed, he will sit down with his staff to review everything his administration did to prepare for Irma, what they did well, and where can they improve.