Tampa Bay area residents will get an up close and personal view of powerful Category 4 Hurricane Michael as it jets by the state’s west coast on its way to the panhandle.
Yet, Michael won’t leave the region unscathed. Wind bands from the storm have reached the area, and there’s an 80 percent chance of rain with the possibility of tornadoes throughout the day. The area is also under a Tropical Storm Watch and Storm Surge Watch.
Area residents can expect 40 to 50 mph winds at times as squalls of winds and rains come ashore in intermittent waves. Also, tides are expected to rise two to four feet from Manatee to Hernando counties, with the highest impact north.
Flooding and street closures have already been reported in some low-lying areas in Pinellas and Sarasota counties.
- Flooding at Casablanca Avenue and West Maritana Drive in St. Pete Beach
- Flooding at Coffee Pot Boulevard in St. Petersburg
- Flooding Dodecanese Boulevard in Tarpon Springs, which was closed due to tidal flooding
- Minor coastal flooding in Holiday around Green Key
- Minor flooding in Sarasota waterfront parks, like Bayfront Park
Water on roads in neighborhoods along Sarasota Bay
There’s also a wind advisory for the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, but it remains open at this time.
According to Bay News 9, all schools except those in Citrus County and Anna Maria Elementary in Manatee County are in session. Citrus plans to reopen Thursday.
In Crystal River, a mandatory evacuation order is in effect for anyone living in Zone A. That includes residents living west of US 19, plus anyone living in a mobile home or RV, according to Bay News 9. Citrus County was also experiencing tides that were two feet higher than normal, flooding streets and some homes. Residents were bracing for a storm surge of between four to seven feet this afternoon as expected winds push water onshore.
While Citrus County schools are closed, storm shelters are open at Lecanto Middle School and Citrus High School.
Across Citrus County, many gas stations were out of gas Wednesday, as people stocked up before the storm or got out of mandatory evacuation areas, Bay News 9 reported.
Area utility companies reported a handful of outages in Tampa, Bradenton and Sarasota by 9:30 a.m.
WUSF Public Media will update this story throughout the day.