LARGO — Starting at 6 p.m. Monday, Pinellas County residents in evacuation Zone A, plus all mobile home residents, will be under mandatory evacuation orders as Hurricane Ian approaches, officials said. Starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday, mandatory evacuation orders will be in effect for Pinellas residents in Zones B and C.
The county already issued evacuation orders for Pinellas residential health care facilities in Zones A, B and C.
Cathie Perkins, Pinellas County emergency management director, announced the orders at a news conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis and several local politicians at the county emergency operations center. To find out if you live in an evacuation zone, click here.
“You don’t have to evacuate hundreds of miles, you can evacuate tens of miles. But we know there will be some people who want to drive further somewhere in the state,” Perkins said. “If you’re going to do that, do that now ... what is normally an hour drive, could take four, five, 10 hours to get there.”
The officials emphasized that Tampa Bay residents should be prepared for potentially “lengthy” power outages, “widespread flooding,” temporary loss of cell phone towers and other major impacts regardless of potential adjustments to Hurricane Ian’s path as storm models update.
“Even if the track is off the coast of Tampa-St. Pete, you’re still looking at a really significant amount of rain, you’re looking at a lot of wind, you’re looking at a lot of storm surge,” DeSantis said. “Don’t think that just because that eye may or may not be in your area, that you’re not going to see impacts.”
DeSantis added: “The prospect of having a hurricane come onshore in the Tampa Bay area is real.”
Hurricane Ian, which was churning in the Caribbean Monday afternoon, is about 500 miles wide and could bring 7 to 10 inches of rain to Pinellas County and 10 to 15 feet of storm surge, the officials at the news conference said, plus risk of isolated tornadoes.
As of Monday, officials said they were expecting the first strong winds to be felt in Tampa Bay at about 3 a.m. on Wednesday.
Despite some initial uncertainty in the models for Hurricane Ian’s path, the governor said he is confident that Tampa Bay residents will have enough time to evacuate to safety, even as traffic increases, as long as residents heed the appropriate warnings. He said traffic exiting the Tampa Bay area is up 30% so far, and as roads get clogged, officials will open the highway shoulders to be used as additional lanes.
“I can’t stress enough: When we ask you to evacuate, you need to evacuate,” St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said at the news conference.
Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard acknowledged that longtime Tampa Bay residents may be tempted to think the threat is overblown, citing past “near misses.”
“Complacency is our greatest enemy behind the storm,” he said. “We need to take this storm incredibly seriously.”
DeSantis said he has not yet spoken to President Joe Biden, but said he has spoken to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell.
Both DeSantis and state Attorney General Ashley Moody are originally from the Tampa Bay area, and Moody said she’s already encouraged her family to be prepared.
“We have often talked about this kind of storm hitting Tampa Bay and what it could do to this area,” she said. “This could be the storm that we’ve all feared.”
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2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide
IT'S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.
RISING THREAT: Tampa Bay will flood. Here's how to get ready.
DOUBLE-CHECK: Checklists for building all kinds of hurricane kits
PHONE IT IN: Use your smartphone to protect your data, documents and photos.
SELF-CARE: Protect your mental health during a hurricane.
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Rising Threat: A special report on flood risk and climate change
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