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On Florida's West Coast, St. Petersburg Prepares For Restoration After Hurricane Irma

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now we turn to St. Petersburg, Fla. It's on the west coast of Florida. And the city hasn't suffered a major hurricane in decades. We want to note how St. Petersburg is doing, so we're joined now by Mayor Rick Kriseman. Mayor Rick, thanks so much for speaking with us.

RICK KRISEMAN: It's good to be with you all today.

MARTIN: How is it going?

KRISEMAN: We're doing all right. You know, we've we've kind of moved past that stage where, you know, all the planning was - had been done for this event. And so we're at the point right now where really what we're trying to focus in on is to make sure that our people are safe and planning for what we do when the storm has gone past us and has moved on so we can start the restoration process.

MARTIN: It did initially - as we were just talking about, the storm looked like it was going to really blast the east coast of Florida but then things changed. There were some mandatory evacuation orders for large parts of the area. Do you think that people had enough time and enough warning to take appropriate precautions?

KRISEMAN: Yeah, I do. And I think - and it's a credit, really, to our county - Pinellas County - and to our folks here with my team and the emergency management team that we have here in St. Petersburg that we got the word out. I think we got it out in a way that was, you know, believable and that the public understood. And, you know, I think having seen what happened with Harvey, I think there was a lot more - people were a lot more aware and, you know, really ready to believe that this could happen here. And I think that worked to our - I hate to say it worked to our benefit, but I think it did. And, you know, we gave out in the first three days last week we gave out about 152,000 sandbags. When the order to evacuate came in, people took it seriously.

MARTIN: So, Mayor, we only have about a minute and a half left. I want to sort of focus on what your - the next phase will be. You know, the last time a major hurricane hit the Tampa Bay area back in 1921, the population was about 10,000. Now it's about 3 million. What is your sense of what it is going to need to happen when all of this is over?

KRISEMAN: Yeah. And with this storm, you know, we've got two things that we're looking at. On the front end is the high winds. And I know one of your prior guests was talking about, you know, the significance of the winds that we're still going to feel when this storm comes through us with hurricane-strength winds. But then it's the storm surge, and that's really - for us, that's what our biggest concern is. We have a number of neighborhoods in our city that are low-lying. And so we're real concerned about that surge. We're making sure that we can get in there and assess the damage and if there's - if people didn't evacuate, we're able to get them out as quickly as possible so that they're safe.

MARTIN: That's Mayor Rick Kriseman, mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla. Mayor, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. We know you're very busy. We do hope you'll keep in touch. And we do hope all will go well with you and with your city.

KRISEMAN: Thank you. I appreciate you having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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