GULFPORT, Fla. (WFLA) — Pinellas County officials are urging residents to take Hurricane Ian seriously and to act now as it approaches.

Mandatory evacuations have been issued for Zones A, B, and C, including all mobile homes in the county. As such, businesses are already taking precautions.

On Monday, some business owners boarded up their windows and doors and moved things inside. They also put out sandbags.

Melissa Loven owns Qi Crystal Energy on Beach Boulevard. She remembers when a storm came through and flooded the entire street almost two years ago.

That was right before she moved in so now, she’s bringing everything off the floor, boarding up the outside and putting sandbags around her business.

“I think it’s just inevitable that water is going to come in, so we’re just going to deal with that,” Loven said. “We’re doing the absolute best we can.”

Loven is in an evacuation zone. On Monday, friends pitched in to help.

“All of the neighbors and the stores here, we all help each other out because that’s just what we do in Gulfport,” Lisa Bromfield said.

Just next door to Loven’s business, Janet Impastato not only has to worry about her store, Let It Be Ice Cream, but her home too.

“We’re actually living in a flood zone, so we’re leaving town tonight, so it was a matter of getting the store taken care of and secure before we left,” Impastato said. “How am I feeling? A little stressed.”

Loven said this is her first hurricane, so she’s trying to stay calm and hope for the best.

“We’re getting it done,” Loven said. “Just kind of use your momentum and your adrenaline. Just kind of get through it.”

Three general population shelters, including one allowing pets, will open Monday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m.:

  • Ross Norton Recreation Center (1426 S, MLK Jr. Ave. Clearwater), and
  • Lealman Exchange (5175 45th St. N., St. Petersburg)
  • Largo High School (410 Missouri Ave. N., Largo) – pets allowed

Additional shelters will open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27.