Congressman Vern Buchanan, other state and county officials said tropical storm-force wind could start as early as 6 p.m.
Manatee County and Florida officials said residents should make their final preparations for Tropical Storm Elsa immediately at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
"Moving forward in the next few hours, the weather is going to be deteriorating," Administrator Scott Hopes said shortly after 2 p.m. "So please finalize your plans, secure your homes and get ready to sort of bunker down and ride out the storm."
Hopes said the storm could be updated to a Category 1 hurricane by the time it reaches Manatee County. Public Safety Director Jacob Saur said the storm is expected to make landfall north of Tampa Bay and that Manatee County can expect tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Saur said the county is concerned that trees could be unstable during the storm because of recent heavy rain. Saur said storm surge will likely be limited to the coast and possibly areas near rivers, but flash flooding will be a possibility throughout the county. The storm could also spawn tornados in the area.
Commissioner James Satcher said people should have in their homes anything they or their families could need in the next 24 to 48 hours, adding that the county has plenty of gasoline is not expecting a shortage.
Manatee County started providing sandbags to county residents at three locations on Saturday morning. The nearest sandbag station to East County is a self-service station at a Public Works Department stormwater facility in Bradenton, located at 5511 39th St. E. Sandbags will be limited to 10 per household.
There is a full-service sandbag station at Bradenton's G.T. Bray Park and a premade sandbag station at the Manatee Beach parking lot in Holmes Beach. All three sites will stay open as long as weather permits, according to the county.
A pet-friendly emergency shelter opened at Manatee High School on Tuesday morning that can be used by people who live in areas prone to flooding. The county said it was contacting citizens registered on the Special Needs Registry who can then choose to be transported to a special needs shelter for those who are dependent on oxygen or electricity to survive.
County shelters will conduct temperature checks and screen visitors for COVID-19 before they can enter. Shelters will have increased space for social distancing, and masks are encouraged. They will be provided for those who don't have their own.
Manatee County's 311 call center will remain open until 10 p.m. Tuesday to field questions from residents.
Manatee County offices and parks closed to the public at noon Tuesday, though county operations continued. Manatee County Area Transit bus and trolley services were also suspended at noon, and were scheduled to reopen at noon Wednesday.
The Lena Road Landfill was closed Tuesday, and all garbage collection was suspended for the day. Saur said all trash cans should be brought inside, as should lawn and patio furniture and other outdoor items.
"The old saying goes prepare for the worst and hope for the best," state Sen. Jim Boyd said. "I think that's where we are. Don't take anything for granted. Secure your family's property."
Garbage collection was scheduled to resume Wednesday, although recycling collection wasn't set to resume until Monday.
Elsewhere, Nathan Benderson Park announced it would close at 5 p.m. Tuesday and reopen when weather permits. A press release said it is a criminal violation to be in the park while it is closed.
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