NEW PORT RICHEY — More than 18,800 people sought shelter from Hurricane Irma in Pasco County, and officials stressed that latecomers would not be turned away.
"We need to get people to their shelter and not move,'' said Pasco Administrator Dan Biles. "If somebody knocks on the door, we will let them in.''
Biles also signed a curfew for 7 p.m. Sunday through 11 a.m. Monday so roads would be clear overnight.
"The intent is to keep people off dangerous roads for their own safety,'' said Biles.
"This is for your safety,'' the Pasco Sheriff's Office said. "This does not mean you cannot check your property or your neighbor's property. Just stay off the roads for emergency vehicle.''
The county pulled all of its non-emergency crews from the Public Works, Utilities and other departments off the roads at 2 p.m. and said emergencies would be handled on a case-by-case basis. Earlier, the county parked its public buses, which had been shuttling evacuees to shelters, as high winds made travel unsafe.
Officials had emphasized the need for residents to get to a shelter by noon. The county opened 21 schools as shelters and reported that 10 were at capacity by midday Sunday.
Around noon, one person appeared in person at the county's Emergency Operations Center east of Little Road, seeking a place to stay. Officers directed him to an elementary school serving evacuees. Two hours later, residents continued to call the county, requesting help getting to a shelter, said public information officer Tambrey Laine. County staffers would attempt to accommodate the requests, but couldn't guarantee they could get to everyone, she said.
"We're getting the calls now,'' Biles had said earlier. "We're past the hour where we should be doing that. They should be in the shelter now.''
Those who can't reach a county shelter should remain indoors, he said.
"Any place is safer than a vehicle,'' Biles said. "They need to shelter where they are.''