TAMPA — Hillsborough County ordered residents in its coastal areas and people living in mobile and manufactured houses to evacuate their homes Monday in advance of Hurricane Ian.
The order, effective at 2 p.m. Monday, could mean more than 300,000 people will be evacuated. Forty-three schools are scheduled to open as shelters.
The mandatory evacuation is for all residents in Zone A, the coastal regions along Tampa and Hillsborough bays from the Manatee County line to as far north as a portion of Race Track Road on the county’s west side. That evacuation zone also includes the areas along waterways feeding into the bay, including the Hillsborough, Alafia and other rivers.
The county recommended a voluntary evacuation for Zone B, the areas adjoining the mandatory zone. The county’s evacuation maps can be found here. A city of Tampa information center will open at noon Monday and can be reached at 888-872-4636. A similar call center in Hillsborough County is at 833-427-8676
“This is not a drill,” said Hillsborough Emergency Management Director Tim Dudley.
Speaking to reporters at the public safety operations complex, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister repeated that message.
“Please heed the warning,” he said.
Hillsborough County Administrator Bonnie Wise recommended residents try to stay with friends or relatives who live at least 20 miles inland.
“I can’t stress this enough. Evacuation to shelters are a last resort. They are not comfortable places. They could be crowded and they could be noisy and you could be in the shelter for days. Again, that could be for days,” Wise said.
“They’re not a comfortable place, but they will be a safe place for those who do not have anywhere to go to get out of harm’s way,” Dudley said about the shelters.
Masks are strongly recommended, but not required in the shelters, Wise said.
Ian is projected to be a Category 4 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Dudley said officials expect a significant storm surge estimated at up to 15 feet and 30 hours of tropical storm force winds.
Chronister said the Sheriff’s Office consulted with court officials and suspended residential eviction notices for the week.
“This isn’t a time to panic,” Chronister said, “this is a time to be prepared. We can replace anything in life, but we can’t replace a life.”
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