ORLANDO, Fla. – On Monday, several Tampa Bay-area counties issued mandatory evacuations for approximately 300,000 people along Florida’s west coast prior to the expected landfall of Hurricane Ian.
Ian is expected to produce 6 to 12 inches of rainfall in Central West Florida, which could impact counties in the region like Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee Counties — all of which have announced mandatory evacuations.
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According to Hillsborough County, some areas of Tampa are predicted to reach 12 to 14 feet of storm surge upon Ian’s arrival.
“This is like a wall of water coming in, and it will come in very rapidly, very powerfully,” Pinellas County Emergency Management Director Cathie Perkins said. “This could push houses off of their foundation.”
While hurricane conditions for Central West Florida are expected Wednesday, tropical storm conditions in the region could possibly pop up by Tuesday night.
“I want everyone to understand the seriousness of this situation, and again, don’t wait until the last minute,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said. “We can replace possessions, but we can’t bring anybody back to life.”
Later Monday afternoon, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch put out a similar message, urging nearby residents to evacuate while they’re still able and warning that time is limited.
“Our first responders will not be able to come to your aid once wind speeds reach a certain level,” Welch said. “And at that point, you will be on your own.”
Drivers were busy filling up gasoline at the Turkey Lake rest stop along the Florida turnpike Monday. However, only a few of the drivers were headed from the Tampa Bay area to more inland locations near Orlando.
With evacuees expected to head toward Orlando, the Rosen Hotels chain is offering a discount rate for any evacuees, starting at $69 per night. Pet fees are also waived, allowing for the entire family to safely evacuate.
Ashely Maxwell and her family were heading out of Florida Monday evening. Maxwell said her family has spent the past month in Florida for work and was expected to stay another week. She said the trip has been cut short due to Hurricane Ian’s expected landfall later this week.
“We are not used to storms, so we are leaving. I was like, ‘Let’s just get out of here,’” Maxwell said. “We have to get out. Most of the people where we were staying by at the hotel already brought sandbags, and I was like, ‘OK, yes, it’s time to go.’”
Fuel was still plentiful at the Turkey Lake rest stop as of Monday night.
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