Hillsborough County announced that it has lifted its evacuation orders for Hurricane Ian, meaning residents who left can return home.
The county had issued mandatory evacuation orders earlier this week for almost 400,000 residents in evacuation zones A and B and those living in mobile homes.
The county also said it plans to close its shelters, though it didn’t give an exact time. The county said more than 8,000 people sought refuge at 47 shelters during the storm.
Hillsborough County Administrator Bonnie Wise said during an early morning news conference that the area was “very fortunate” with Hurricane Ian. “We were lucky once again.”
“We haven’t had one loss of life as a result of this storm,” Sheriff Chad Chronister added.
Officials encouraged those with damaged homes to stay somewhere safe, such as with family, friends or at a hotel.
They also urged evacuees to drive safely and avoid standing water on roads and downed power lines.
“Be aware that some traffic signals are not functioning. Always remain alert when driving,” a county news release said.
Emergency Management Director Tim Dudley said the storm damage was minimal in evacuated zones, though sporadic strong wings are expected throughout the morning. Power is still out in some parts of the county, he said.
MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa remains closed, Dudley said. It’s assessing damage and will announce when it’s safe to return.
Northwest Hillsborough County received an inch of rain from the storm, while the southeastern corner got 12 inches, Dudley said.
There may be flooding Friday morning along the Little Manatee River and the Alafia River, he said.
“Today is a great day, compared to what we were anticipating. ... We are so lucky and so thankful that we were spared the worst of this most incredible event,” County Commission Chair Kimberly Overman said.
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Tampa Bay Times Hurricane coverage
WHEN THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?
WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.
IT’S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.