As shelters reach capacity, updated models show that area can expect 6-10 feet of storm surge, and 6-10 inches of rain in Sarasota County.
Sarasota County issued a voluntary evacuation order for Evacuation Zone B today and expanded the number of shelters it is offering ahead of Hurricane Irma.
The announcement follows a mandatory evacuation order for Zone A, which includes Sarasota’s barrier islands. At 8 p.m. on Saturday, which is the deadline residents have to get out, all water and sewer will be turned off on Siesta and Casey keys.
For areas under mandatory evacuation, law enforcement officers will stop westbound traffic into the zone after 8 p.m. Saturday. If someone has an important reason to get back onto the area — to secure property or pick up a loved one — authorities may let them through.
Once winds hit sustained speeds of 45 miles per hour, authorities will be called back from their posts, and emergency vehicles will not go out.
Residents can find their evacuation zone on the county website.
At a press conference today, county Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane said the voluntary evacuation is designed to provide more information for residents who are undecided about leaving. It’s also a possible precursor to a mandatory evacuation order.
“The voluntary evacuation is given as an indication that county public safety officials feel there's increased threat based on the current storm track,” McCrane said, adding that people in Zone B may see storm surge in their front yards, but “nothing catastrophic.”
The county is now offering seven shelters throughout Sarasota, and Manatee County opened more than 20 shelters that still have some space. Booker High School opened Friday, but around noon on Saturday was at capacity with more than 1,200 people. By 4 p.m., Brookside Middle School was also at capacity
“We don't know what the devastation is going to be. This is a deadly storm and our state has never seen anything like it.”
“We had a better track at the beginning of the week. We thought it was going to go up the east coast,” McCrane said. “It’s not. It’s coming over us.”
At this time, rivers that flooded with the last storm system that came through the county could be flooded again. McCrane said 6-10 inches of rain could be expected with the storm’s new track. Additionally, the storm surge threat is now 6-10 feet.
Florida Governor Rick Scott addressed the state from Sarasota County's emergency operation center Saturday morning. He encouraged residents to be safe and take Hurricane Irma seriously.
“We don't know what the devastation is going to be,” Scott said. “This is a deadly storm and our state has never seen anything like it.”
To get information from the county, sign up for the CodeRED emergency notification system. Additionally, if you have questions, you can find hurricane-related information on their homepage at scgov.net. You can also call their non-emergency number at 941-861-5000, but the wait time is up to an hour.