While island communities and low-lying areas of Manatee County have been put on alert from Hurricane Eta, Manatee County emergency personnel said Wednesday morning the inland and eastern parts of Manatee County should come through the fast-moving storm just fine.
"We don't expect any flooding out east," said Jacob Sauer, the director of public safety for Manatee County, at a morning Zoom news conference. "The east will be able to make it through this good."
Tropical force winds are expected to intensify along the coastal areas of Manatee County in the late afternoon and a 2- to 4-foot storm surge is expected along the coast.
"Make no mistake, it's going to be a rough night (for the island communities)," Sauer said. "But it will drastically improve after (Thursday) morning."
Sauer said Eta is expected to make landfall north of Tampa late today and he said the storm is expected to diminish from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm.
Steve Litschauer, the county's chief of emergency management, said the county has upgraded to a Level 1 Virtual Activation and that low-lying and coastal communities are under a voluntary evacuation order. However, the county advises residents in those areas to shelter in place unless it's absolutely necessary to evacuate and in that case, seek family or friends in a safety area for shelter.
Manatee High School and Mills Elementary will both be available today starting at noon as refuges of last resort. Due to COVID-19 concerns, residents are asked to not go to those shelters unless absolutely necessary.
MCAT will suspend its service at 1 p.m. today.
Schools in Manatee County were closed today for Veterans Day, but also will be closed Thursday and Friday for on-campus learning. Students will shift to e-learning on those days.
No sandbag stations will be available in eastern Manatee County.