Pinellas and Hillsborough counties are advising residents to shelter in place as the worst of Hurricane Ian is yet to come.
Hillsborough County officials warn that flash flooding and strengthening winds have combined to create hazards making it no longer safe to be on the road. As of Wednesday afternoon, Hillsborough County officials are urging residents not to relocate to a Hillsborough County emergency shelter or any other location. There are more than 6,500 individuals in shelters across Hillsborough County.
In neighboring Pinellas, officials order residents to shelter in place, emphasizing that breaks in the weather do not mean the storm has passed. There are about 4,500 residents in Pinellas County public shelters.
Hurricane Ian is projected to hit just south of Tampa Bay, with the Naples to Sarasota region at “highest risk” of a devastating storm surge. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor told reporters Wednesday morning that she spoke with Mayors of Fort Myers, Sarasota, Punta Gorda and Naples to offer resources for communities impacted by the storm, which was previously expected to directly pummel the Tampa Bay area earlier this week.
Officials continue to warn Bay-area residents that “we’re not out of the woods yet.” As the storm moves slowly across Florida, conditions in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties are expected to worsen throughout the day, even if the storm remains to the south.
Here are some tips from both counties on how to weather the storm:
— If you experience an emergency, call 911 and report the issue. Emergency crews will respond as soon as it is safe to do so.
— If there is a need to take cover, find an interior room away from windows and skylights. Bring water into your safe room if you cannot exit due to storm debris.
— Do not walk in floodwater. It only takes six inches of fast-flowing water to sweep you off your feet, and one foot of floodwater can carry away cars.
— If flooding is a threat, turn off electricity at the main breaker.
— After the storm, begin taking steps to reduce flood damage to your home, such as cleaning or removing wet items to reduce mold and contact with chemicals or sewage.
— Keep cellphones and electronic devices charged in case of power loss. Checking in with family through texting or social media can be more reliable than phone service.
— In case of electricity loss, flashlights or chemical sticks are safer than candles.
— Keep storm shutters and windows closed until the storm has completely passed.
— Once storm conditions subside, do not leave your home until officials announce that it is safe.
— Do not set objects of any type on the stove while the power is out.
— Keep generators in well-ventilated locations outside, away from all doors, windows and vent openings. Do not operate during high winds and rain. Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.
— Place generators so the exhaust fumes can’t enter the home through windows, doors or other openings in the building.