Mandatory evacuation orders are currently in place for residents in Pinellas County, Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma.
Officials in Pinellas County ordered its first evacuations Thursday to begin at 10 a.m. Friday. Access to the county will be cut off beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday, when Irma is supposed to impact the area.
The evacuation orders came as a unanimous decision by the county’s commission. It placed an evacuation order for “Level A” residents — mobile homes and low-lying areas. Those started at 6 a.m. Friday and it affects over 160,000 residents in the county. Another decision on evacuation orders is expected to come Friday evening, when Level B and C residents will find out if they should evacuate, The Tampa Bay Times reported
On Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a statewide state of emergency, giving officials the appropriate time to prep for the storm. Residents of the Sunshine State have been encouraged since then to review emergency plans and potential evacuation plans.
Those that are forced to evacuate have been told to first find out their evacuation zone. To find out that information, check the chart below:
Next, it’s important to know the difference between a recommended evacuation and mandatory evacuation. Recommended means the potential for a storm surge isn’t great, but officials recommend that residents in historically flood-prone areas and mobile homes take refuge.
Mandatory, like the one issued for Level A in Pinellas, means there’s a probability that the storm surge will be high and loss of life could occur if residents don’t evacuate. It’s also illegal to stay in a home under a mandatory evacuation.
Then there’s the evacuation route maps. It’s vital that those who are evacuation have a concrete plan and use the advised evacuation routes to leave the area.
Click here to view the proper evacuation routes if you live in Pinellas County.
Lastly, if you are evacuating and don’t have a place to go to, there are a number of shelters available for temporary refuge. Click here to see a list of temporary shelters for those evacuating from Irma.
It’s important to note, though, that not every shelter is open for every evacuation. To ensure it’s open, call the Citizens Information Center at (727)-464-4333.