Sarasota County Schools will release students and staff two hours early today as Hurricane Eta makes its way north through the Gulf of Mexico.
The storm, with most of its rainy, windy weather on its east side, is affecting Sarasota County this morning. Conditions are expected to degrade throughout the day.
A tweet from the school district indicated families and staff were being notified of the schedule change via phone, text and email. The school district said it was monitoring the storm’s path and would share updates on Thursday’s classes later in the day.
Manatee County school district posted a notice on its website saying: "All School District of Manatee County school campuses will be closed (Thursday) and Friday, November 12th and 13th. However, classes will continue for all students virtually through eLearning. Teachers and other school and support staff will continue working tomorrow remotely."
The district is opening Mills Elementary School and Manatee High School to serve as shelters, which will open at noon Wednesday.
Manatee County's Emergency Management refers to the school shelters as "Shelters of Last Resort" and encourages residents to shelter at home or with family or friends.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the capacity at the shelters is reduced to 617 at Manatee High School and 989 at Mills Elementary. Everyone will have their temperatures checked, and everyone must wear masks while in the shelters.
Eta at 10 a.m. Wednesday was located about 145 miles south-southwest of Tampa and was moving north-northeast at 10 mph toward a forecast landfall in Florida's Big Bend area. Top winds are at 75 mph.
Sarasota and Manatee counties are under a tropical storm warning, with hurricane warning posted from Anna Maria Island north to Yankeetown. A tornado watch is also in place for the Manatee, Sarasota area.
Heavy squalls are expected throughout the day, with downpours and tropical storm force winds.