Pasco County declares state of emergency and orders evacuations

Hernando County is also evacuating residents west of U.S. 19
The West Pasco Government Center, at 8731 Citizens Dr in New Port Richey, houses the County Commission Chambers.
The West Pasco Government Center, at 8731 Citizens Dr in New Port Richey, houses the County Commission Chambers. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Sept. 26, 2022|Updated Sept. 28, 2022

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County Commissioners approved a state of emergency Monday afternoon and announced that evacuations in zones A, B and C, which includes everyone west of U.S. 19 and some neighborhoods to the east, should begin Tuesday morning when shelters open.

Andrew Fossa, Pasco director of emergency management, called Hurricane Ian “unprecedented” and warned that Pasco faces potentially “significant devastation and damage.” Storm surge without a high tide could reach 14 feet. Because the storm is expected to slow once it reaches the Tampa Bay area, it will also hold the surge in place longer and also dump significant rain.

Since Pasco is already saturated from rainfall in recent weeks, Fossa predicted widespread flooding.

Fossa also said that since the expected landfall is north of the county, Pasco will be on the “messiest and dirtiest side of the storm” where surge and tornadoes are more likely to cause significant damage.

County officials are preparing 12 emergency shelters, including the Mike Fasano Regional Hurricane Shelter, which will serve residents with special needs.

The county’s evacuation order specified mandatory evacuations for those living in evacuation zone A and “recommended voluntary” evacuations for people who live in zones B and C. The latter category also applied to those with special needs or who are vulnerable to power loss.

Hernando County has also declared a state of emergency and issued a voluntary evacuation for all residents west of U.S. 19 and all residents of manufactured homes and in low-lying areas in zones A, B and C. The Hernando evacuations will become mandatory on Tuesday.

Shelters in Hernando will open on at 9 a.m. Tuesday, including the special needs shelter at Challenger K-8 school. Other shelters opening will be Explorer K-8 and the Mining Association Enrichment Center. Both of those shelters are for general population and are also pet friendly.

Pasco commissioners said they were anxious to get the word out to people in the path of the storm about the potential surge. County officials are also working with HCA Florida Bayonet Point Hospital because it is anticipating flooding inside the building if the storm predictions are correct.

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