Live From The EOC 

Posted: 10:00 am Saturday, September 9th, 2017

By Ann Kelly

 

Monday, Sept 11th, 4 am

Hurry up and wait. That’s life at the Hillsborough EOC between last night and this morning. Watching Irma come up the coast, make landfall on Marco Island then make that right hand turn that took the eye over Polk County. They took a real pounding and now we wait for dawn so they can head out to check safety of the roads and assess damage. So please don’t even think about sightseeing. Stay in place until safe. Wait for the all clear for your area before trying get on the road. We’re all together in this so why not be a good neighbor and lend a hand? After spending the last few days here at the EOC and seeing their devotion to helping others, looking out for each other and the pride in their work it will be a pleasure to be a small part of it whenever they need us.

Millions are without power this morning. I was one of them, but I was lucky enough to get a text from Duke Energy that it was back on earlier this morning. Check with Duke or TECO for their outage map to get an idea of how things are for your area. If you are using a generator please make sure you’re using it safely. Oh, and phone numbers. Need help? We have those for you in the Dove Hurricane Guide along with updates, storm tracks and more. You can also help with relief efforts with just one click. Just stay safe and let’s see what opportunities today may bring to make a difference.

 

Sunday, Sept. 10, 7 pm

So. As I write this there are almost 3 million people are without power tonight and it’s going to take some time to repair. Hurricane Irma will come through Tampa Bay tonight possibly as a Category 1 storm. Lots of wind, rain and with a storm surge warning there’s also the issue of flooding. Oh you thought those beaches that “disappeared” today were going to stay that way? That would be no. But considering that this massive, historic storm was a Category 5 not more than a day ago on an uncertain track we have a lot to be thankful for, don’t you think? And if you need another reason to be thankful, how about this wonderful bit of news? An expectant mother came to the Hillsborough County EOC when she went into labor at a shelter and now has a health baby boy. Mom’s name? Irma.

The hurricane season is far from over so please keep those supplies handy and an eye on the Dove Hurricane Guide for more updates on what is still Hurricane Irma, and how to recover safely from any damage you may sustain, and how to protect yourself and the family for storms to come. This is, after all,  Florida.

 

Sunday, Sept. 10th, 530 pm

Hurricane Irma made landfall on Marco Island and is now on a path to the Bay area. The storm is still a Category 3 with sustained winds of 130 mph, and moving faster at 14 mph. Now the question is the path of the storm that’s still heading north, and is expected to make that north-northwest turn on the way up the coast. Take a look at the map – Irma will make a turn and head up to Georgia sometime tomorrow afternoon. We stay under the hurricane and storm surge warning which is already affecting travel across the big bridges. The Sunshine Skyway was closed first, and the westbound lanes of the Gandy and the Courtney Campbell Causeway are closed right now. But with the winds picking up and rain getting heavier, there’s a good chance that will change as well.

Face it, where you are is where you should safely stay. Oh, and plug in the phone and keep it charged. There’s a good chance of more power outages. I’m not going anywhere tonight, I’ll be right here at the Hillsborough County EOC to keep you up to date as long as the ‘net stays up, along with more in the Dove Hurricane Guide.

 

Sunday, Sept. 10th, 230 pm

The 2 pm track on Irma still has it as a Category 3 hurricane, still moving to the north at 12 mph. It’s expected to move north-northwest and start picking up speed. Predictions could lower the intensity to a Category 1 but that’s still a powerful storm that has brought a hurricane and storm surge warning. I’ve seen some interesting pictures of very low water levels seen along Bayshore Blvd and along the Memorial Causeway to Clearwater Beach. But when Hurricane Irma moves into the Bay area and pushes all that water back, there’s trouble. Irma’s arrival is just hours away so…yes, I’ll say it… hunker down. Now,

Sunday, Sept. 10th, 1 pm

That new track may have a little good news for the Bay. For now, it looks like landfall may be along the southwest Florida coastline but that doesn’t mean we won’t feel some pretty rough weather for a while. This track from Ten News, home of StormTracker Ten shows Hurricane Irma as a Category One storm by the time it comes up the coast and impacts us here in the Bay area possibly around 7 pm and lasting through the early morning hours. Let’s see what the 2 pm advisory has to say. But the Hillsborough EOC is plenty busy and very full with responders ready to go, and another visit from Senator Bill Nelson. The internet has been up and down for a while and you might be having a few problems yourself. Shelters are filling up so think of this as the final all to get to safety. Pasco County has locked down their shelter but they also say they won’t send anyone away. Stay safe and keep the Dove Hurricane Guide handy along with The Dove on the TuneIn Radio app for around-the-clock coverage of Hurricane Irma from Ten News.

Sunday, Sept. 10th, 1115 am

We still have a Category 4 storm passing across the lower Keys right now. No, that turn hasn’t happened yet but one Hurricane Irma passes into open water we should see that happen. But just one look at that tropical storm force winds possibility map should convince you it’s time to get to shelter. I’m at the Hillsborough County Emergency Operations Center for the duration of the storm, the perfect place for information on available shelters and safety information after the storm.

Don’t forget that the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is CLOSED, and all barrier island bridges in Pinellas County are also closed. I’ll let you know when other bridges are affected by the storm.

And Ham radio operators, you are still needed! HC AresRaces is still looking for volunteers to help during this critical time. Here’s the link to their Facebook page, and if you can help, please call 813-301-7474. Thanks!

 

Sunday, Sept 10th, 10 am

Pay attention. A mandatory curfew goes into effect for the city of St. Petersburg at 5 pm today, and in Manatee it goes into effect at 3 pm. Many counties have mandatory curfews already in place and with our weather going downhill fast there’s no reason to go out. Find safe shelter. These curfews are in effect for the duration of the storm. Speaking of which, tropical storm force conditions are expected in the Bay area starting this morning. I’ll have an updated track just after 11 am. But you can already see the rain and feel the winds increasing.

 

And Ham radio operators, you are needed! HC AresRaces is looking for volunteers to help during this critical time. Here’s the link to their Facebook page, and if you can help, please call 813-301-7474. Thanks, you’re the best!

 

Sunday, Sept. 10th, 820 am

I just took a walk through the yard here at the Hillsborough EOC. That was  very sobering; seeing row after row of emergency response vehicles ready to roll from Urban Search and Rescue, Mass Casualty Unit, patrol vehicles…and endless procession as we all wait and hold our breath for Hurricane Irma. It was a little breezy, very overcast and even with that bit of wind it felt still, like that feeling you get before a storm. There’s nothing still about Hurricane Irma. She may only be moving at 8 mph, but that storm is packing winds of 130 mph making it a Category 4 and on the present path will make it very difficult to sleep tonight in Tampa Bay.

Sunday, Sept 10th, 520 am

Over 300,000 people are without power already in Florida and the worst of Irma is yet to come for us. The 5 am update has the eye of Irma moving over the lower Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm. Storm surge warnings are up along with the hurricane warnings, and many schools and businesses are making plans to close through Tuesday. We’re closed of course and so many of my coworkers evacuated and I’m glad I can keep up with them through texts and social media. I worked storm coverage in that infamous 2004 year of Charley, Francis, Ivan and Jeanne but that pales in comparison to what I’m feeling about Hurricane Irma.

Pinellas County is shutting down bridges at 6 am. Barrier island access is shut down for Pinellas County, and other barrier island areas in Tampa Bay may still be allowing residents through but that’s likely to change soon. Shelters are filling up and the ones that seem to fill first have been special needs and pet-friendly shelters. If you were welcomed into a friends home that’s such a blessing. Stay with me from the Hillsborough County EOC for the duration of the storm, and check the latest evacuations, where to find shelter and where and when Irma will be next. Take the time now to download the TuneIn Radio App for your phone so you can stay with us for live continuing coverage from Ten News, home of Stormtracker Ten.

 

Sunday, Sept 10th, 4 am

Good morning. Like many of you I did get a little sleep but it’s tough to turn away from coverage of Hurricane Irma. The Keys and south Florida are getting the high winds and rain now.  The storm will be making its way into the Gulf and those warm waters so that Category 4 hurricane could still strengthen again. Key West already has had at least a two foot storm surge.

 

 

It’s quiet here at the Hillsborough County EOC. But within a few hours all these rooms will be full of more dedicated people who have left their families and friends to make sure we’re safe. I’ve had the honor of speaking with Captain Jones from Hillsborough Fire Rescue, met a “first timer” from the Nashville Fire Department who deployed to help us out and I can’t thank Joe Mastandrea, Emergency Management Specialist, who’s office space we’re set up in.

 

I took a look at a lot of your posts on Facebook and Twitter this morning. So many made the tough, but right, decision to leave their homes and head for higher ground and safety. I’m so glad to hear from all of you and let’s keep these lines of communication open as long as we can. Today is the day to make sure your phones are fully charged as we’ll begin to feel the full effects of Irma starting later tonight so keep the Dove Hurricane Guide handy for the latest watches and warnings along with our TuneIn Radio App so we can be there even when the power goes out.

 

830 pm Saturday, Sept. 9th

I’m going to call it a night soon and grab a few hours sleep. Tomorrow promises to be a very busy day and I’m glad we’re keeping in touch with each other. It’s been an interesting day here at Hillsborough County Emergency Operations, who did open additional shelters today. I met a great paramedic that’s part of a team from the Nashville Fire Dept. that’s come down to help out. It’s her first time working a storm like Irma, and honestly it’s a first for just about all of us. Hurricane Irma is already one for the record  books. Right now the Keys are starting to feel tropical storm force conditions with winds gusting over 60 mph. We’re under a hurricane warning and storm surge warning with conditions pretty much going downhill from here on in. The 8 pm update for Hurricane Irma still has the storm strength as a Category 3 hurricane. Please stay in touch with the Dove Hurricane Guide and don’t take risks.

 

530 pm Saturday, 530 pm

I was talking to one of the guys at the Hillsborough County Emergency Ops Center about some of the fake social media posts that popped up during Hurricane Harvey, like the shark in the street, and now there’s plenty for Hurricane Irma. FEMA has already had to set up their own web site to counter a lot of the rumors and just plain wrong information along with scams that are popping up. Take a look and let’s not spread false information. So where is Irma now? Get the latest track on Irma from our partners at Ten News, home of StormTracker Ten, and in the Dove Hurricane Guide.

 

4 pm, Saturday, Sept 9th

We’ve had people reach out to us from out of the Bay area looking for shelter here, and that is getting a little tough. I’ll link up the latest information from Ten News but we’re getting very close to that time you may have to shelter in place. But please make sure you are in a safe place. We do have some information on shelters in Georgia where it seems a lot of my friends are headed. But wherever you are headed remember this. If do break down law enforcement is towing cars to avoid accidents and keep the way clear for emergency vehicles. Let me know how you’re doing with finding fuel, too. Keep Florida 511 handy for great information on the highways, wherever you may be headed. Keep up to date on our watches and warnings (and there are plenty of those) and just don’t take any chances. Be safe!

230 pm Saturday, Sept. 9th

Irma still has winds around 125 mph, but it’s headed for those warm, open waters in the Gulf so wrapping up your prep ASAP and getting ready to shelter wherever you are is here. The 2 pm update is in, and those shelters are filling up very fast, especially ones that allow pets. Check the list here from our partners at 10 News. I’m happy to say one of my good friends in Clearwater to to do a drive-by on my house to check things out when it’s. Thank you Tim Shackton! That’s what we need more than ever right now – friends that have our back. Reach out now and make sure your friends are doing okay, and if you’re getting as many texts as I am from friends and family they know I’m in a safe place.

100 pm Saturday Sept. 9th

A little something to pass along from the Hillsborough EOC, but really it applies to everyone heading to shelters. Walking away from my home and all my stuff was hard. But I have three very precious items with me and the rest is really just that – stuff. My mom’s hand-tinted baby picture and well as my dad’s, any my grandmother’s rosewood jewelry box. But those are all in my car and I have to hope for the best there. But if you are shelter bound you need to do the same, and bring only the items necessary. Shelters are filling up fast so please take only what you need.

1130 am Saturday, Sept. 9th

Tom Petty said it best. The waiting is the hardest part. The latest updates is in, and as of 11 am, Irma has weakened slightly but is still a dangerous Category 3 storm with winds of 130 mph. The storm is moving along the east side of Cuba but forecasters are expecting it to regain strength once it moves away from Cuba. That’s when we wait for “the turn.” The Keys will feel the fury of Irma first then she makes her move up the west coast.

 

So now is the time to finalize your prep. If you are planning to fly out of Tampa International Airport they are shutting down tonight at 8 pm. All of All of the Bay area is under a hurricane warning and based on the current path of Irma there are also storm surge warning for coastal areas. Please keep checking  back with the Dove Hurricane Guide for the latest information and from our partners at Ten News, home of StormTracker Ten. Be safe.

 

 

10 am Saturday, Sept. 9th

So here I  am for the next few days, at the Hillsborough County Emergency Operations Center. And can I tell you how happy the family is about that. Driving away from home this morning was very tough. Squirrels were running around in the front yard begging for peanuts, my neighbor was wrapping us his prep and all I wanted to do was go back inside, climb in bed and make it all go away. Not happening. But I’m glad I can share this all with you. We’ve never see anything like Irma and hopefully will never again. The changing path, the sheer size of the storm and waiting…and this waiting. I hope and pray for two things. Your safety and that my house will still be there when I go home. No guarantees there but with as many people praying for each other’s safety I take a lot of comfort in that.

 

So feel free to let me know how you’re doing. I do have to say that being offered a homemade peanut butter cookie the minute I walked into this studio away from home sure helped with a little of the nervous energy. I have an endless and abundant supply of that. We’ll keep you up to date on the path of Hurricane Irma in the Dove Hurricane Guide and with our partners from Ten News, home of StormTracker Ten on Facebook Twitter and right here. And please make sure you’ve downloaded the TuneIn Radio app. Then we’ll always be right by your side.

 

But to my friends that I’ve worked with the years you’ll get this. The only thing missing my our regular storm coverage is Bunny Bread and peanut butter. But the cookie helped.