BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) — Residents along the Peace River fear what will happen when a major hurricane hits as average late summer Florida thunderstorms have already been flooding places around the river for weeks.

“With a hurricane coming it can be twice as high to three times as high,” said Phil Black, who lives at Peace River Village Mobile Home Park.

His mobile home has been surrounded by water for days at a time in recent weeks. The remnants of that flooding are just about gone as Hurricane Ian makes its way north.

“I’m worried. That’s all you can be is worried, you know,” Black said. “That’s not good. It makes it where you don’t know how it will turn out.”

Courtesy: Phil Black

“I think in two months, we’ve got over 30 inches of rain in Bartow with me keeping tabs myself,” said Felix Atkinson, Black’s neighbor.

Atkinson fought back tears talking about his frustrations living in a place that regularly floods.

“Just the fact of the matter, we just have a pretty rough time,” he said.

The Peace River is a major concern for county officials as they monitor the track of Hurricane Ian.

“The record crest there is 11.3 feet and that was in September of 2004, so we’re set up now in this forecast to potentially meet and exceed that record,” said Paul Womble, Polk County emergency management director.

Three hurricanes; Charley, Frances, and Jeanne, consecutively hit Polk County in 2004.

There are similarities between the forecasted track of Hurricane Charley and Hurricane Ian.

Charley was forecasted to make landfall in Pinellas or Sarasota counties and took a turn to the east at the last moment.

“Polk County and Charley made landfall in Charlotte County, they were in that cone of uncertainty. The cone is the key. That’s where the eye could go. The center of the storm could be anywhere inside that cone,” Womble said.

Womble and his team are monitoring Ian, noting that any movement east or west could have a significant impact on Polk County.

Womble anticipates high winds to be an issue in the short-term but serious flooding could take weeks to recede.

Some areas could get anywhere between six inches and 12 inches of rain in a short amount of time.

“We’re about two days away from impacts in the Tampa Bay region of a major hurricane, the likes that Tampa Bay has not seen in 100 years,” said Womble.

Womble urged anyone in flood-prone areas or mobile homes to find shelter at a friend or family member’s home. If that is not possible, the county will have shelters available.

“If the water just keeps getting too high, we’re out of here,” Atkinson said.

Polk County Emergency Management has activated the Citizen’s Information Line to answer Hurricane Ian-related questions.

Further updates will be provided if conditions change. The Citizen’s Information Line can be reached at (863) 401-2234 (locally) or toll-free 866-661-0228.

The line will remain open during business hours throughout the storm. Information is also available on PGTV (Spectrum 644, Comcast 5 or Frontier 20), or check the county website for updates at and Polk’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Shelters are available in Polk County beginning at noon Tuesday:

Horizons Elementary School1700 Forest Lake Dr, Davenport
Sleepy Hill Elementary School2285 Sleepy Hill Rd, Lakeland
R. Bruce Wagner Elementary School5500 Yates Rd, Lakeland
Chain Of Lakes Elementary School7001 Hwy 653, Winter Haven
Mulberry Middle School500 SE Martin Luther King Jr Ave, Mulberry
Spessard Holland Elementary 2342 E.F. Griffin Rd, Bartow
Auburndale High School1 Bloodhound Trail, Auburndale
Citrus Ridge Academy1775 Sand Mine Rd, Davenport
George Jenkins High School6000 Lakeland Highlands Rd, Lakeland
Highlands Grove Elementary4510 Lakeland Highlands Rd, Lakeland
Kathleen High School1100 Red Devil Way, Lakeland
Lake Marion Creek Middle School3055 Lake Marion Creek Dr, Poinciana
Winter Haven High School600 6th St SE, Winter Haven

Pet friendly shelters that will be open Tuesday, September 27 at 12:00 p.m. are located here:

Tenoroc High School4905 Saddle Creek Rd., Lakeland
Lake Region High School1995 Thunder Road, Eagle Lake
Haines City High School2800 Hornet Drive, Haines City

Pet owners must bring shot records for their pets, an airline-approved carrying case or crate and pet food.

Special Needs shelters will also open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, for those residents with special medical needs. Polk County Emergency Management’s Special Needs Program is designed to provide shelter and/or transportation for residents with medical or physical conditions and/or dependent on medical electrical equipment who require assistance during an emergency.

The Special Needs shelters are located at:

FDOH Polk Specialty Care Unit1255 Brice Blvd., Bartow
McKeel Academy1810 W. Parker St., Lakeland
Ridge Community High School500 Orchid Dr., Davenport