KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Osceola County officials declared a mandatory evacuation for residents in mobile homes and strongly urged everyone living on the county's east side to leave Thursday morning at a news conference as the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew started lapping Florida’s coast.
"We're doing our share, but we're asking you to do yours,” said Steve Watts, Osceola emergency operations director. “We're asking you to do everything to prepare yourself and neighbors for this dangerous situation."
Watts urged residents to take all their essential items with them if they are heading to a shelter.
“A shelter is a life boat not a cruise ship. It's important to take everything you need to sustain yourself with people you don't know. We don't provide bedding," Watts said.
Safety officials recommend residents be off the roads by 5 p.m. Thursday, county locations will stop handing out sandbags at noon.
“This is an extremely dangerous situation,” said Osceola Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer. “That’s why we’ve approved a mandatory evacuation. Any of our residents who live in low-lying or flood-prone areas should also consider evacuating by 5 p.m. today.”
During the press conference, county officials told residents not to wait to decide on evacuating their homes.
"I would just say if you have any doubt, get out. If you're worried you need to find shelter," said Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins, Jr.
Officials are asking people to be off the roads at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Four shelters are open in Osceola, according to county officials.
A general population shelter is located at 2700 N Narcoossee Road in St. Cloud.
Three pet-friendly shelters will open at 7 a.m. on Thursday:
- Kissimmee Middle at 2410 Dyer Blvd in Kissimmee.
- Harmony High at 3601 Arthur J Gallagher Blvd in St. Cloud.
- Liberty High at 4250 Pleasant Hill Rd. in Kissimmee.
A special needs shelter will also be available at the Barney E. Veal Center in Kissimmee at 700 Generation Point.
Sandbags are available at seven locations in Osceola County through Thursday from 8 a.m. until noon. Help will be available for residents who need assistance filling sandbags. There is a 25 limit per household.
- Road & Bridge Department at 3850 Old Canoe Creek Road
- Road & Bridge Department at 1698 S. Hoagland Boulevard in Kissimmee, 34741
- Poinciana Library at 101 N. Doverplum Avenue in Poinciana, 34758
- Buenaventura Community Center at 501 Florida Parkway, 34743
- Kenansville Community Center at 1178 S. Canoe Creek Road in Kenansville, 34739
- Holopaw Community Center at 8801 Community Center Road in Holopaw, 34773
- Celebration Library at 305 Campus Street, 34747