NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County officials urged residents on Tuesday to heed evacuation orders and recommendations with Hurricane Ian’s path still uncertain.
While the latest forecasts showed the storm’s likely path inching southward, the actual landfall of Ian is still unknown and coastal Pasco is still at risk for storm surge, high winds and flooding, said Pasco County Administrator Mike Carballa. He said he was concerned that some people are being complacent.
“Take this storm seriously,” he said. “I tell you, it can happen here.”
Pasco announced mandatory evacuations on Monday. They include all residents living in zone A, in manufactured homes and recreational vehicles, and those who live in low-lying areas. They also include people in buildings that have experienced flooding during heavy rainfall and anyone ordered to evacuate by local authorities due to life-safety hazards.
In addition, Pasco officials said residents should evacuate if they live in zones B and C, if they are registered with Pasco as a special needs resident or if they would be vulnerable to harm in the event of a loss of power.
The Fasano Regional Hurricane Center is open for special-needs residents only and allows pets. Other shelters open are Centennial Middle School, Cypress Creek High School, Cypress Creek Middle School, Fivay High School, Wesley Chapel High School, Wiregrass Ranch High School, River Ridge middle and high schools, Thomas E. Weighman Middle School, Sunlake High School and Pasco Middle School.
Pasco can expect as much as 20 inches of rain over the next 60 hours, said Andrew Fossa, emergency management director. “We are going to have high winds and we’re going to get flooded,” he said.
He urged people to get to their safe place in a shelter or other lodging if they are evacuating as soon as possible. Tropical storm strength winds will likely begin midday on Wednesday and people should not be on the road at that time.
Another reason to heed the evacuation order is that after 40 mph winds begin, Pasco Fire Rescue units begin to shut down. At 50 mph, they shut down completely and don’t respond to calls anymore, said Pasco Fire Chief Scott Cassin.
Power outages and cell phone service interruptions also will be likely so calling for help will also be difficult during the storm, he said.
Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said that his deputies are ready, including those who have specialized training to help in storms and their aftermath. He also urged people to stay calm as they go about their preparations even though stress levels are running high.
“You’re not alone. We’re all in this together,” he said.
On Tuesday morning Pasco firefighters assisted in evacuating patients from North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey. Patients were transported to hospitals outside of evacuation zones.
The county has given out more than 260,000 sandbags and and had run out early Tuesday but more were borrowed from Hillsborough County, Fossa said. The county is limiting the number of sandbags to 10 per household.
Pasco government offices, parks and libraries are closed in advance of the storm. The West Pasco Resource Recovery Facility at 14606 Hays Road, Spring Hill, and the East Pasco Transfer Station at 9626 Handcart Road, Dade City, will be closed Wednesday and Thursday, and service on Friday will depend on conditions resulting from Hurricane Ian.
There will be no garbage collection Wednesday and Thursday. Friday service will depend on conditions after the storm. County officials ask residents to place their trash out on the next regularly scheduled day and to contact their hauler for further information.
The Pasco County public service line to answer additional questions from residents is open at 727-847-2411.
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