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St. Pete closes emergency operations center; Pinellas EOC remains open

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Petersburg closed its emergency operations center, opened to handle issues related to Hurricane Matthew, at 9 a.m. Friday.

No significant damage was reported, St. Petersburg officials said, although one downed tree branch briefly blocked traffic on 4th Street South at 59th Avenue. Wind speeds stayed between 18 mph and 26 mph overnight, with gusts reaching 33 mph, they said. Seven people spent the night at the shelter at Northside Baptist Church, 6000 38th Ave. N.

St. Petersburg officials said the city forecast is calling for 1 inch of rain and breezy conditions. Strong rip currents expected for the next few days. There is possibly a higher-than-normal high tide expected for later today, although no street flooding is anticipated unless the city gets heavier rainfall than expected.

Pinellas County officials continue to closely monitor Hurricane Matthew for potential impacts to the area. The county’s emergency operations center and citizens’ information center both remain open, as do all county government offices. Residents can call the citizens’ information center at 727-464-4333 for general information.

The National Weather Service is forecasting sustained winds of 25 mph to 35 mph and occasional storm bands with 40 mph to 45 mph wind gusts, similar to summer thunderstorms, to impact Pinellas County until noon. There is a high risk of rip currents for all Pinellas beaches and tides 2 feet above normal from Tarpon Springs to Indian Rocks Beach. Clearwater Beach is expecting a northwest wind influence that is expected to cause wave run-up and beach erosion.

The price gouging law is also in effect. Effective only during a declared state of emergency, the price gouging law prohibits sharp increases in the price of essential commodities, such as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber, and equipment needed as a direct result of an official declared emergency. Violators are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation, up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period.

Residents who suspect price gouging can report it to Pinellas County Consumer Protection at 727-464-6200 and are also encouraged to report it to the Attorney General’s hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.

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