As Hurricane Eta travels toward the coastline, county officials are preparing but not yet opening evacuation centers.
Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane said that for now, it is safer for residents to shelter in place to avoid the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in evacuation centers.
“Visitors should stay with family or friends as much as possible,” McCrane said. “We are in a COVID-19 environment, protect yourself, protect your friends: wear a mask. If we have a need to open some sort of refuge as a last result, we’ll do that.”
In the event of an evacuation, residents are first asked to try to find an alternative to one of the county’s shelters. However, the county has prepared its centers to help maintain COVID-19 guidelines.
Allotted space in the shelter will be farther apart, masks will be required and there will be enhanced sanitation. Residents are asked to pack masks and sanitizer in their evacuation kits and pre-register for an evacuation center if necessary.
For now, residents are asked to stay away from beaches and stay indoors as much as possible.
Residents also should avoid standing or driving in or near standing water. Six inches of standing water is enough to knock over an adult and 12 inches of fast-moving water can carry away a small car.
Eta’s current projected track has it making landfall north of Tampa, but McCrane said that because Sarasota County falls on the east side of the path, it will still see some effects.
“The good news for the storm right now is that even though it’s still there, a lot of the west side of the storm has fallen apart,” McCrane said. “It could regenerate, but it’s good news for now.”
Most county buildings remain closed for Veterans Day. All Parks and Recreation events scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday have been canceled.
All county beaches remain unguarded. All Sarasota County Area Transit and paratransit routes will be suspended as of 1 p.m. Wednesday.
For now, trash and recycling collections remain the same. Residents can check the county's website for live updates.