The county is issuing a mandatory evacuation order for Zone A, which wraps around the coast of the bay, and a voluntary evacuation for Zone B, Hillsborough County administrator Bonnie Wise announced at a press conference Monday. Evacuation zones can be found here.
“We did not make this decision easily. But this storm poses a serious threat and we must do everything we can to protect our residents,” Wise said. “I can’t stress this enough — evacuation shelters are a last resort. They are not comfortable places, they could be crowded, and they could be noisy. And you could be in a shelter for days.”
Wise recommended those who are evacuating to ask to stay with a friend or family who lives at least 20 miles inland before resorting to the emergency shelters.
“If you can seek shelter in their home, you would be much more comfortable there. Do not wait time is of the essence,” she said.
Emergency shelters will open at 2 p.m. Monday in Hillsborough County. Wise asked residents who must evacuate to be patient, and prepare.
“If you have no other place to go and need to go to a shelter, please be patient. We expect to have to evacuate over 300,000 people and it will take some time, which is why we are starting today,” she said. “We need to give people enough time to find transportation and go to shelter safely in an orderly fashion.”
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister added that the county will have an increased law enforcement presence, and that the county has suspended evictions for the week to ensure individuals will have a safe place to stay.
“This is not a time for panic, but this is a time to execute a plan,” Chronister said. “We are prepared, but what we need is our community to be prepared. We need your help.”
Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis announced county schools will be closed from Monday through Thursday. School bus drivers will be available to transport residents to shelters.
“We want to make certain that our children are in front of our teachers every single day. However, when you’re facing a situation such as a hurricane or tropical storm, you want to be able to make the safest decision to be able to protect not only our students but also all of our employees,” Davis said.
As for the storm, the county’s emergency management director Tim Dudley said the area expects to experience a significant storm surge, with the hurricane reaching Hillsborough County as a Category 3.
Hillsborough County is expected to experience a storm surge of up to 15 feet, as well as 30 hours of tropical storm force winds.
“Please treat this storm very seriously,” Dudley said. “This is not a drill. Be prepared for anything.”