Authorities are urging millions of Floridians to evacuate as Hurricane Ian is expected to make landfall in the state soon with extreme winds, catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge.
Several evacuation orders have been issued for counties along the west coast of Florida, where the hurricane is expected to make landfall on Wednesday. Residents in some areas of Tampa, Florida’s third most populous city, are among those being asked to leave their homes.
“If you’re told to evacuate, evacuate now. Not tomorrow. Evacuate right now.” Florida Sen. Rick Scott said on CNN’s “The Lead” Tuesday afternoon.
Scott said the storm surge could be especially deadly and many residents have never experienced such a severe storm.
“We know there’s going to be a lot of storm surge, so if local emergency officials are telling you to evacuate, it’s because there’s a high chance of severe wind, rain and water,” said Red Cross spokesman Evan Peterson. USA TODAY
Here’s who should evacuate and how to evacuate safely:
Should I evacuate? Which Florida counties are evacuating?
You should follow the recommendations of local authorities, which can be found on the Florida Division of Emergency Management website.
On Monday and Tuesday, counties including Charlotte, Hillsborough and Lee had issued mandatory evacuation orders for some residents.
When Hurricane Ian is expected to make landfall on Wednesday, an area stretching from Naples, Fla., to counties north of Tampa, Fla., will likely see the most severe impacts, officials said.
What is a voluntary evacuation? What are zones?
Local officials have issued mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders for areas in more than a dozen Florida counties.
If your area is under a voluntary evacuation, it means you are encouraged to leave, and you should at least prepare to evacuate.
Evacuation zones are predefined areas based on hurricane risk. They are named after the letters of the alphabet, starting with A, the area of greatest risk. Each zone is determined based on storm surge data, elevation and evacuation routes, according to Charlotte County, Florida.
Where should I go in an evacuation?
People who are told to evacuate don’t necessarily have to travel far to get to safety.
“In order to get away from this storm … you don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get to safety, you may have to travel tens of miles,” Peterson said.
It’s important for people to leave areas that may experience flooding, because it will be much more difficult for emergency responders to reach residents after flooding has occurred, the American Red Cross says.
Going inland on set evacuation routes will help protect you from hurricane impacts, Peterson said.
Floridians are being told to ride out the storm in a shelter or stay with friends, family or a hotel or motel in a safer area. You can find shelters on the Florida Emergency Management website.
What should I bring with me if I go to a shelter?
Bring enough food, water, clothing and other items for you and your group members if you plan to spend time in a shelter this week, the Red Cross says.
Red Cross workers will accept domesticated pets, just crated if possible, the nonprofit says.
If you are going to a shelter, plan to bring the following items:
- Prescription drugs
- extra clothes
- Soap, deodorant and other hygiene supplies
- Other “convenience items”
Don’t forget to bring diapers and infant formula, the Red Cross says, along with other items your family members may need.
Also bring any financial, medical, immigration, or other important documents that you don’t want the storm to destroy if you leave them at home.
Have a plan for how you will receive emergency notifications and weather updates, Peterson said. He recommends having at least three devices, including one that doesn’t need to be charged through an outlet, such as a battery-operated radio.
Do I really need to evacuate?
Experts say the best way to stay safe in the face of a hurricane is to follow evacuation orders and get out of the storm’s path. People who stay are putting themselves in harm’s way.
“You can rebuild this house, but you can’t rebuild your life,” Scott told CNN.
Since the impacts of Hurricane Ian are expected to be severe and life-threatening, anyone who does not evacuate should be prepared to be unable to receive help from emergency responders after the storm, Peterson said.
Ride-hailing service Uber announced Tuesday that it will expand its free rides to and from state-approved evacuation shelters in Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties. On Monday, he offered the same to residents of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Pasco counties. Uber customers who want the free ride must enter “IANRELIEF” in the promo code when booking an Uber ride.
If a person is at home in the middle of bad weather, they should go to a room with no or few windows and avoid glass windows and doors during the storm, emergency management experts say.
HOW TO PREPARE:Our Homeowner’s Guide to Hurricane Preparedness