Marion County prepares for Elsa

Special needs shelter open at West Port High School

OCALA, Fla. – Marion County residents on Tuesday continued preparations as the western portion of the county was put under a tropical storm warning ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa’s arrival.

As of Tuesday evening, Marion County was under a tropical storm warning, with Elsa expected to bring strong winds, heavy rain and the potential for severe weather when it moves close to the northwest Gulf Coast of Florida.

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“In the last few weeks we’ve had some rain, so the ground is already saturated. The danger there is that some trees may come down with the rain and wind combined. We may see some trees fall and that will lead to some power outages, so our main concern right now is with our special needs folks,” said Marion County Sheriff’s Office Public Relation Director Sergeant Paul Bloom.

The county opened a special needs storm shelter at West Port High School located at 3733 SW 80th Avenue in Ocala.

“Everyone else we’re saying just take normal precautions,” said Bloom.

To help residents prepare, officials opened sandbag distribution sites at Souls Harbor Church at 11808 N. Ohio St. in Dunnellon and Martel Recycling Center at 296 SW 67th Avenue Road in Ocala.

Linda Andrews and her husband made the decision to fill 10 sandbags after she saw the forecast over the holiday weekend.

“If we have torrential rain, I’m just concerned about the water rising to our door, so we figured it would be a good idea to sandbag our doors,” Andrews said.

Marion County Public Schools announced it canceled summer classes and activities Wednesday. Several government buildings will close as well.

“We wanted to make sure that we don’t have any buses or anyone on the roads because the winds get to be 40 mph making it dangerous for our staff, so we wanted to make sure we had everyone home,” said school board member Reverend Eric Cummings.

As Elsa inches closer to Marion County, residents are preparing for what could be a rough storm.

“Mainly power outages, that’s the only thing I’m concerned with but I have a generator,” said Randall Mobley.

“We’ve got the necessities; we’ve got the generator ready,” said Chris Spear.

The Marion County Emergency Operations Center is partially activated and has opened its citizen information line. The number is 352-369-7500.

To receive the latest updates regarding severe weather in your specific area, sign up for AlertMarion, a free service for Marion County residents.

About the Authors:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.