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PSTA helps evacuate flooded areas

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is throwing its weight behind emergency management efforts in Pinellas County as areas continue to struggle with flooding.

Monday morning two PSTA buses were deployed to Caladesi RV Park in Palm Harbor. Residents there were taken to Clearwater Community Church.

Another bus was dispatched to an assisted living facility in Palm Harbor. The agency estimates that between 10 and 12 patients were transported from the facility to the East Lake Fire Department.

Some areas throughout the Tampa Bay region are experiencing heavy flooding as a result of continued rainfall onto already saturated ground. Images have been flooding news media of stranded cars, make-shift boats and even a guy catching a fish on the sidewalk. PSTA is assisting with emergency management efforts to evacuate people in flooded areas.

The transit agency is part of the Emergency Operations Center. Whenever that is activated PSTA is deployed to evacuation sites to transport people to shelters.

Despite localized problems with flooding throughout Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties, none of the local emergency management departments have reached out for statewide help.

According to Aaron Gallaher, communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, local departments report they are managing the situation adequately using their own resources.

Should the flooding situation escalate, Gallaher said the statewide agency is prepared to assist. That agency would help with anything from organizing law enforcement response from outside agencies to making sandbags available to residents.

Gallaher said the agency will continue to monitor the situation even after the rain has stopped because rivers can still rise and create new flooding problems.

In the meantime, residents are being asked to avoid driving in flooded areas and take caution when they do have to travel.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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