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Pinellas changes some evacuation zones

The county updates the hurricane danger levels for more than 107,000 addresses.

By ADRIENNE P. SAMUELS, Times Staff Writer
Published June 17, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - Pinellas County is changing hurricane evacuation zones for more than 107,000 addresses, which means 330,000 maps released less than three weeks ago already are outdated.

Most of the changes take residences and businesses into a more dangerous evacuation level, though some went the other way.

The modifications were made after the county created a more precise method of determining evacuation zones, said Gary Vickers, Pinellas County director of emergency management. That method didn't become available until after the county chipped in $13,000 toward a 330,000-copy print run of hurricane guides distributed in late May by newspapers and government outlets.

The county's altered map is now available on its Web site, and residents are being told of their evacuation zones in utility bills and tax notices.

That doesn't sit right with Cyndy Lovallo, who lives in the Bonnie Glynn subdivision just south of Park Boulevard off Belcher Road.

On Wednesday, Lovallo read in her water bill that her Zone C home of seven years had become a zone A home, meaning her chances of being ordered out before a hurricane are now certain.

"As long as I've lived in this house, it's always been a C," said Lovallo, 46, who works at an engineering firm. "I was a little floored when I saw it and thought, "That's how they're notifying people?' "

Other areas, like south county's Pinellas Point, will see major changes. A stretch of 50 waterfront properties there went from zone A to zone C.

The county is still trying to figure out how to tell residents what's going on, since they don't immediately plan to print more maps.

The bill notices only will come to residents who pay Pinellas County or the city of St. Petersburg for their utilities. People who don't live in the unincorporated county or in St. Petersburg can log on to the Pinellas County Emergency Management Web site at www.pinellascounty.org/emergency or call the county at 464-3800.

The county has an automated telephone service for evacuation zones, but it is not working this week.

The county approved printing the old map last month even though employees were quietly working on a new version. They went ahead with the old version to stay on schedule with seven other counties that collectively print maps with the help of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, county officials said.

The hurricane guides, like the one printed in the St. Petersburg Times May 29, are still valuable, Vickers said, because of the information provided on the back side.

"A new map won't change where the shelters are," said Vickers.

But what about the rest of the Tampa Bay area?

Pinellas' topography is unique in west Florida because the entire county is a peninsula. Hillsborough County doesn't need to be as precise, said Steve Porter, an emergency planner for Hillsborough County Emergency Management.

"We have not had to do that and so far I have not been asked to even contemplate that," Porter said. "I just don't see it as necessary."

In Pasco County, last year's maps are this year's maps, said emergency management coordinator Jim Johnston.

"We just got the darn things a week ago," said Johnston. "I sure hope they're not going to change them."

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