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Signs show Pinellas residents storm surge heights

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Published:   |   Updated: July 23, 2014 at 04:48 PM

Pinellas County is giving residents a visual clue of what they can be expected in the event of a major hurricane.

The 38 signs show predicted storm surge elevations throughout the county. According to a press release, the project is the result of an 18-month State Homeland Security Grant Program that coincides with the release of a National Hurricane Center’s experimental storm surge application.

Through a joint collaboration with the Pinellas County School District, the 38 signs were placed at schools or school-related facilities. North-county residents can see them at East Lake High, Tarpon Springs High, Oldsmar Elementary, Safety Harbor Elementary, Tarpon Springs Elementary and other schools.

The signs vary in height but are generally in the 5- to 7-foot range. Tom Iovino, a public information specialist with the county, explained that this should help the program’s effectiveness.

“We wanted to make sure we selected locations where storm surge levels weren’t too high or low,” he said. Hillsborough County began erecting storm surge signs in recent years, many of which stand well over 10 feet in height.

Coming next to county residents will be the National Hurricane Center’s Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map.

According to an online news release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the Miami-based hurricane center, the interactive maps will cover areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Among other specifics, the maps will be issued at the same time as initial hurricane watches, they’ll show inundation levels that have a 10 percent chance of being exceeded, and they’ll be subject to change every six hours.

The maps are expected to be able to zoom from regional to street-level views, “showing residents what storm surge will look like at their address during different evacuation levels,” the county press release states.

According to NOAA, the maps will be experimental for at least two years. Data and comments from users and will be reviewed to determine if the maps will become operational products.

Pinellas County residents can find more information on this effort by going to www.pinellascounty.org/emergency.

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