As Tropical Storm Erika barrels toward Cuba, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and Chief of Staff Kevin King may have to hunker down.
The trio of city officials are in Cuba for the weekend for a sort of fact-finding mission for the city. They plan to gather information to ensure St. Pete is in a good position to deal with Cuba as President Barack Obama continues to normalize relations.
Kriseman also hopes to attract a Cuban consulate to St. Pete.
The group had planned to stay in Cuba until Sunday, but according to a post on Kriseman’s Facebook page they may be returning sooner.
“In Cuba, fascinating and productive. Eyeing TS/Hurricane Erika, too. Will be out of here and back in the Burg before storm impacts either place,” Kriseman wrote Friday a little after noon.
However, a tweet from Tomalin about an hour later possibly contradicts Kriseman’s post.
“If necessary we’ll leave #Cuba in time to avoid #Erika & will arrive in #StPete for storm prep and possible activation of Emergency Ops Ctr.,” Tomalin tweeted at about 1:15 Friday afternoon.
And Kriseman’s spokesperson, Ben Kirby, told SaintPetersblog the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff would be watching the storm closely to determine when to head home.
Tropical Storm Erika is expected to become a hurricane sometime tonight. The center of the current projected path puts it skirting the southeastern tip of Cuba at about 8 a.m. Saturday. The projected path has the storm moving along the north shore of the Cuban island toward Florida throughout Saturday and into Sunday.
Landfall in Florida is expected somewhere along Southwest Florida early Monday morning.
Kirby said the city’s Emergency Operations Center is prepared to activate and the city is already working to ensure enough capacity in its sewage system to accommodate heavy rain by pumping water from existing tanks into injection wells.
That’s a key move considering the last time the city saw heavy and steady rainfall earlier this month they dumped 15 million gallons of untreated wastewater into Clam Bayou creating a massive backlash from residents and neighboring cities impacted by it.