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Hurricane Dorian: Public school closures, sandbags and alerts

The storm is projected to make landfall on south Florida’s east coast Tuesday.

As Hurricane Dorian barrels through the Atlantic Ocean toward Florida’s east coast, the Tampa Bay region is already preparing. 

Both Hillsborough and Pinellas County Schools will be closed Tuesday as the districts prepare for wet and possibly windy conditions.

As of the most recent updates, Dorian is expected to make landfall on Florida’s east coast sometime Monday and is projected to be east of Tampa by 2 a.m. Tuesday. 

The city of Tampa opened three locations for residents to pick up sandbags to prepare for possible flooding. Residents can pick up sandbags at the city’s Himes Ave. complex at 4501 S. Himes Ave., MacFarlane Park at 1700 N. MacDill Ave. or Al Barnes Park at 2902 N. 32nd St.

Centers are open until 7 p.m. everyday until further notice. Residents must show proof of residency with a valid driver’s license, utility or electric bill. The limit per person is 10 bags. Sandbag pickup has not been announced yet for Friday or through the weekend.

The city of St. Pete opened three sandbag pick-up locations Friday morning. Residents can get up to 10 sandbags each at Northeast Park located at 875 62nd Ave. NE, James Turner Fields at 643 22nd Ave. S. And Northwest Pool at 2331 60th St. N.

All locations are open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. through Sunday, weather permitting.

For quick service, the city recommends following posted traffic patterns and remaining in their vehicles while city staff load sandbags into their trunk or the bed of their truck.

The city has so far not activated its emergency operations yet, according to St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman in a Facebook update Thursday morning. 


The city’s Executive Policy Group is meeting Friday to make further planning decisions. Crews are already deployed to clear storm drains in preparation for potential heavy rain and tropical storm conditions. 

Kriseman is recommending residents follow usual storm precautions like filling up gas tanks, getting cash from ATMs and purchasing necessities like water and batteries. 

“Bottom line: listen to local and state officials and our smart, local meteorologists,” Kriseman wrote on Facebook. “Be patient and be kind with each other. Help a neighbor if you can. I call it the spirit of St. Pete. I think we shine brightest when dark clouds gather. Let’s keep at it.”

Pinellas County Government‘s Citizen Information Center is open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. to answer preparedness questions by calling (727) 464-4333.

Pinellas County is offering up to 20 sandbags each at three locations through Sunday. Those include John Chestnut Sr. Park at 2200 East Lake Road in Palm Harbor, Walsingham Park at 12615 102nd Ave. in Largo and Lealman Exchange at 5175 45th St. N. in St. Pete. Locations are open 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. while supplies last.

Meanwhile, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation is urging policyholders and other Florida residents to protect themselves and their families.

“As Dorian approaches, our policyholders and all Florida residents need to take action to protect themselves and their families,” said Barry Gilway, Citizens President, CEO and Executive Director. “Be sure to follow instructions of local emergency management agencies. Citizens is preparing all of its internal and external resources to help you recover.”

To help policyholders stay informed, the Citizens website has a Storm Tracker feed, which delivers real-time National Hurricane Center updates directly to customers’ desktop and mobile devices.

Citizens is encouraging customers to verify their information is up to date and that all pertinent paperwork is stored in a safe, watertight location. 

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for 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 die-hard 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 contentious issues surrounding transit. 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 a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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