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Rick Kriseman’s Cuba trip may get cut short thanks to Tropical Storm Erika

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

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.

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 [email protected]

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