Officials in Hillsborough County, Florida, have issued an evacuation order for coastal residents Monday as Hurricane Ian advances toward the shores.
Hillsborough County Administrator Bonnie Wise announced the evacuation order, which took effect at 2 p.m. eastern time in Zone A and recommended a voluntary evacuation for Zone B. Residents of Zone B are urged to relocate to evacuation shelters or with friends and relatives who live at least 20 miles inland.
Zone A includes the regions along Tampa, the Hillsborough bays and the Manatee County line, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“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,” she said. “And 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.”
Over 300,000 are expected to evacuate their homes and the process of transporting people to shelter will be gradual, Wise said. She further pleaded for everyone in need to be patient.
Hillsborough Emergency Management Director Tim Dudley and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister emphasized that this warning is “not a drill.” Chronister said the order is meant to prevent any citizen from dying in the midst of the storm.
“Please, heed the warning. Heed the warning and find a safe place for you and your families to go,” the sheriff said.
Forty-three schools are slated to become evacuation shelters, the Tampa Bays Times reported. Dudley reiterated Wise’s statement that the evacuation centers are uncomfortable and far from an ideal temporary living situation.
Hurricane Ian is classified as a Category 4 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm has reached maximum sustained winds of 85 miles-per-hour moving north-northwest at 13 mph, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Dudley said the storm surge is expected to hit up to 15 feet and 30 hours of tropical storm force winds.