MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) — As Hurricane Ian inches closer to the Tampa Bay area, residents in coastal communities are preparing for the storm’s impacts. On Anna Maria Island Monday, residents packed sandbag stations throughout the day. Many telling 8 On Your Side that storms surge is their greatest concern.

Some businesses and homeowners began boarding up their properties Monday shortly after the county announced a mandatory evacuation for residents in Zone A. We also saw workers put up storm shutters at Holmes Beach City Hall.

Owner of Hurricane Hanks, Brian Mathae, told us Monday that he wanted to “get ahead of the game and get all set up.” The business pulled out the same plywood it used five years ago during Hurricane Irma, where the owner says they “fared well.”

“We lost power for five days, but that in the whole scheme of things. That is not the end of the world,” said Mathae.

With so many new residents in the area, he shared this word of advice.

“We are somewhat unique here because we are on an island — a very low island. So heed all the officials’ advice. Just get to safe ground. It is not worth — it is not worth messing around with this,” he continued.

During a news conference Monday, officials urged residents in evacuation zones to take this storm seriously.

“We can’t repeat enough to take the storm seriously. Those of you that have lived in this county or the Tampa Bay area for decades are well aware that we often get reports of storms approaching and through the act of God, we do not see the worst-case scenario,” said Manatee County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes. “Now you’ll notice as the news continues throughout this day, people are remembering the last storm that hit Tampa Bay, which was 100 years ago. This could very well be that next hundred-year storm. Be prepared to take action, especially if you were in the level A or B evacuation zones,” he continued.

Sheriff Rick Wells also stressed the importance of heeding the warnings.

“What I want to stress is the fact that evacuating now while you have an opportunity is critical. When the winds hit a sustained speed of 45 mph, it is going to be very difficult for deputies to remain out on the roads and trying to help people through that crucial time. We are going to try our best to get to you, but the bottom line is, we just may not be able to get to your location,” said Sheriff Wells. “So we are really begging you to evacuate once you have the order, find a safe location for you and your family and all of the deputies can continue to take care of the other needs that we have throughout the county,” he continued.

The evacuation order for zone A goes into effect Tuesday at 8 a.m.

“The island will be shutting down at sundown. You will not be able to get on the island. We are going to encourage you to get off the island before sundown. Mandatory evacuation on the island tomorrow, prepare today. If you’re ready, leave today. Around an hour after sundown, the water will be shut off to the island, that is because we have to protect our water system and our infrastructure,” Hopes said.

The School District of Manatee County is working with the Manatee County Emergency Management to open 15 local schools as shelters beginning Tuesday at 8 a.m.

  • Nolan Middle School (Special Needs)
  • Braden River High School (Pet Friendly)
  • Manatee High School (Pet Friendly)
  • Mills Elementary School (Pet Friendly)
  • Bayshore Elementary School
  • Freedom Elementary School
  • Gullett Elementary School
  • Harvey Elementary School
  • Lee Middle School
  • Myakka Elementary School
  • Miller Elementary School
  • McNeal Elementary School
  • Rogers Gardens Elementary School
  • Williams Elementary School
  • Willis Elementary School

For details on how to prepare, and what to bring to a shelter, residents are urged to visit Manatee County’s Emergency Shelters web page.

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