- September 9, 2017
The ominous message was delivered Friday by Manatee County.
Those living in low-lying areas and in mobile or manufactured homes were issued a mandatory evacuation order as Hurricane Irma shifted west and took a more direct course toward Manatee County.
"The hurricane has shifted toward Manatee County," said Sherilyn Burris, the county's emergency management chief. "The latest projected shift west puts our community at greater risk of very strong winds and quite a bit more rain than was projected (Thursday.)."
Manatee County is now under a hurricane watch. Anyone in the county's evacuation Level A, which includes homes near the coast, rivers, streams or low-lying areas, has been asked to seek shelter elsewhere.
Rick Wells, the Manatee County sheriff, asked those in Level A areas to heed the evacuation order. "It's important to understand that when tropical winds reach a steady 45 miles per hour, we will not be able to help you," Wells said. "We will be bunkered down until it is safe.
"The worst thing is to be out there in a storm and no one is there to help you. Get out now and find a safe location."
Wells said all Manatee County residents who evacuate should take two forms of identification with them, such as a driver's license and a utility bill, so they will be allowed back into their evacuated neighborhood. Deputies will be on guard against looting.
The county said it would have 23 of its 24 temporary shelters open by 4 p.m. Friday.
Manatee County Commissioner Robin DiSabatino urged residents to stay calm and follow directives. "Please be safe and don't be a hero," she said.
Manatee County public safety director Bob Smith asked the public to use shelters only "as a life boat."
Smith said evacuating might mean just seeming refuge at a family's or friend's home who lives nearby in a safer neighborhood when it comes to storm surge. "We never say you need to go cross country," he said.
Burris reminded the public that emergency shelters have no cots or supplies. Anyone who goes to a shelter needs to bring bedding and supplies.
Emergency Communications Chief Jake Saur asked for Manatee County residents to only call 911 in an emergency. Other calls with concerns or questions related to Hurricane Irma should be directed to the Citizens Information Center line at (941) 749-3547.
For more information on Manatee County Government, visit online at www.mymanatee.org or call (941) 748-4501. You can also follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/manatee.county.fl and on Twitter, @ManateeGov.
Information Outreach Manager
Office: (941) 745-3771
Cell: (941) 224-9393