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Hillsborough transit agency prepares emergency evacuation plans

If needed, buses would transport residents to local shelters.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority is preparing to activate emergency evacuation routes if called upon ahead of Hurricane Dorian.

The agency will begin evacuation service if ordered by the Hillsborough County Office of Emergency Management.

HART’s emergency evacuation network includes nine routes that serve four shelters — Smith Middle School, Pizzo Elementary School, Middleton High School and Shields Middle School.

Shelters, if opened, may vary depending on capacity and availability.

Evacuation routes can be viewed on HART’s website. The nine routes serve the entire county, with the densest service in the urban areas in Tampa.

Bus stops providing hurricane evacuation service are marked with blue and white signs with the image of a hurricane in white on a blue background. Buses can be caught at those stops. Evacuees can also flag buses down anywhere along any of the evacuation bus routes.

HART suspends its regular transportation service when activating emergency evacuation service. The agency suspends all service (including emergency evacuations) once sustained winds reach 39 miles per hour.

Hurricane Dorian is currently gaining strength in the Atlantic Ocean and is expected to make landfall on South Florida’s east coast Tuesday as a Category 4 hurricane. It’ll be the first major hurricane to hit Florida’s east coast since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

President Donald Trump compared Hurricane Dorian to Hurricane Andrew in a video from the Rose Garden at the White House posted to Twitter Thursday night. He warned Floridians the be wary of the storm, which he called “a monster.”

While the storm will likely weaken as it makes landfall, the Tampa Bay area is likely to experience heavy rainfall and gusty conditions with the possibility of tropical-storm-force winds.

The National Weather Service continues to include almost the entire state in its cone of uncertainty as the Dorian makes his way toward the state, meaning there is still much uncertainty about the exact path.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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