Live blog: Hurricane Matthew
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Live blog: Hurricane Matthew

urricane Matthew's torrential rains triggered severe flooding in North Carolina on Sunday as the deteriorating storm made its exit to the sea, and thousands of people had to be rescued from their homes and cars. The death toll in the U.S. climbed to at least 16, nearly half of them in North Carolina.

    BUCKHORN, KRISEMAN HOLDING STORM NEWS CONFERENCES TODAY

    The mayors of Tampa and St. Petersburg plan news conferences today on how their cities are preparing for the threat from what is now called Tropical Depression 9, expected to become a tropical storm later today. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and key city staff will address reporters at 11 a.m. at city hall. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman with his staff will speak at city hall at 1 p.m. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.
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    PHCS postpones safety expo

    Because of the impending tropical weather event, the Pasco-Hernando State College Spring Hill Campus Safety Expo scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed until Sept. 28. The time will remain as 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. on the new date. 

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    Gov. Scott traveling to Tampa to discuss storm

    Rick Scott's office announced the Republican governor is traveling to Tampa this afternoon for briefings on storm preparation, while a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to strengthen and make landfall along Florida's west coast in the next 48 hours.
    Scott will monitor the storm from the Emergency Operations Center in Tampa and hold a press conference at 5 p.m.
    "Florida families on the Gulf Coast and in the Tampa Bay area need to prepare for five to 10 inches of heavy rainfall as well as potential tornadoes," Scott said said in a statement. "Floridians should always remember to never drive on flooded roadways, seek shelter in the event of severe weather and always have a plan in place to keep your family safe."
    To reduce the chance of Zika virus spreading, Scott also advises homeowners to dump standing water, which can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
    Officials elevated the status of the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee to Level Two this morning in preparation for the storm, currently called Tropical Depression 9. Level Two means the activation of mission-specific emergency support and planning functions.
    The National Hurricane Center predicts the storm will strengthen to tropical storm status today -- with the potential to produce coastal and inland flooding, storm surge, rip currents and strong winds. It's expected to reach Florida's coast by Thursday.
    "Whether this is your first tropical storm or you’re a seasoned veteran of past hurricanes, you need to take this storm seriously and be prepared for the very real threats it could produce," advised Bryan Koon, director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management.

    — Kristen M. Clark, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

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    Tampa Bay events canceled, postponed due to storm

    Tampa Bay TimesThe threat of tropical weather will likely affect scheduled events across Tampa Bay this week.The list of postponements and cancellations below will be updated as more information becomes available.
    by Tampa Bay Times Editor edited by Carl Lisciandrello, Times... 8/30/2016 8:21:05 PM
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    More canceled and rescheduled events in Tampa Bay, including the Good Burger Awards at Jannus Live:

    Tampa Bay events canceled, postponed due to storm

    Tampa Bay TimesThe threat of tropical weather will likely affect scheduled events across Tampa Bay this week.The list of postponements and cancellations below will be updated as more information becomes available.Shine Mural Festival Creative Block opening party, Central Avenue at 5th Street N., St. Petersburg, rescheduled for Aug. 5 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m (details)Buccaneers vs. Redskins preseason football, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, rescheduled for Wednesday at 8 p.m. (details)Good Burger Awards, Jannus Live, St. Petersburg, rescheduled for Sept. 8. (details)Sunset Beach Concert Series, Sunset Beach, Tarpon Springs, rescheduled for Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. (details)Safety Awareness Day, Pasco-Hernando State College Spring Hill Campus, rescheduled for Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (details)Swing Night, Gulfport Casino Ballroom, Gulfport, canceled, but will resume on Sept. 7 from 6 to 11 p.m. (details)Related: Heavy winds, rain approach Tampa Bay; tropical depression could soon be a named storm
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    FUNERAL FOR MSGR. HIGGINS ON SCHEDULE DESPITE RAINS

    The funeral coordinator says heavy rains this morning won't affect the schedule of services today for the late Monsignor Laurence Higgins -- "The voice of the church in Hillsborough County," in the words of Bishop Robert Lynch, leader of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg. Lynch will preside at the 11:30 a.m. funeral at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Tampa.
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    FHP urges drivers to be careful on the roads amid flooding and back-ups

    Early on Wednesday, traffic was at a standstill at the I-275 exit on 54th Avenue S. in St. Petersburg. Flooding closed the both the northbound and southbound lanes. By 8 a.m. there was also a high-wind advisory on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Florida Highway Patrol said gusts were between 33 and 40 mph. Around 6 a.m., a truck had overturned in the bridge's northbound lanes, blocking traffic.

    Read more here. 
     
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    So far, area airports reporting no cancellations 

    Tampa International Airport had five delays out of its 390 total scheduled flights, said spokeswoman Emily Nipps just before 10 a.m. Wednesday. There have been no canceled flights, she said. The main weather triggers that delay flights, she said, are high winds and lightning.
    St. Pete-Clearwater International airport reported no delays and that Wednesday was a low-flight day for the small Pinellas County airport. 

    -- Sara DiNatale
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    Flooding closes Shore Boulevard S in Gulfport

    Flooding has caused Shore Boulevard S in Gulfport to be closed. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
     
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    PINELLAS OPENS CITIZEN INFORMATION CENTER TO SIPHON OFF 9-1-1 CALLS

    Pinellas County authorities are getting so many calls to the emergency 9-1-1 number about the approaching storm that they have opened the Citizen Information Center. Residents can call (727) 464-4333 with their preparedness questions or to report issues. The information center is scheduled to close at 6 p.m. Wednesday and reopen at 8 a.m. on Thursday. 
     
    More information is also available, the county says, at the county website, www.pinellascounty.org, and at county social media accounts. Residents also may sign up for alerts at Alert Pinellas, www.pinellascounty.org/alertpinellas, and more information on emergency preparedness -- including evacuation zones -- is at www.pinellascounty.org/emergency.
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    Hernando County closes schools for Thursday

     

    "After consulting with our local Emergency Management partners and following Governor Scott’s call for a State of Emergency for areas including our community, Hernando County Schools will close all schools Thursday, September 1st. All after-school events for today and Thursday are cancelled as well.

    After school care services will remain open today.

    We are also aware that the storm may still be active in our area into Friday.

    At this time, we are planning on schools being open Friday.

    The school district will be providing updates regarding the status of Friday, by way of global connect calls, the district’s webpage, our Facebook as well as on our HCSD Mobile App.

    We encourage all of our families to follow weather updates from our Emergency Management team, be prepared and, most importantly, stay safe!"

     

    While Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties have already canceled classes, Pasco County will said it will announce its decision later this afternoon. 

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    PINELLAS COUNTY PARKS CLOSED

    Pinellas County on Wednesday sent out a list of parks that would be closed until further notice:
    • Fort De Soto Park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde 33715
    • Sand Key Park, 1060 Gulf Blvd., Clearwater 33767
    • Fred Howard Park, 1700 Sunset Drive, Tarpon Springs 34689
    • Heritage Village, 11909 125th St. N., Largo 33774
    • Philippe Park, 2525 Philippe Parkway, Safety Harbor 34695
    • Ridgecrest Park, 12000 Ulmerton Road, Largo 33774
    --Jack Suntrup, Times Staff Writer​
     
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