Mandatory Evacuations to Begin Friday in Pinellas
By ANNE LINDBERG, TB Reporter
Pinellas residents with special needs or who live in mobile home parks or Level A evacuation zones will be under a mandatory evacuation order. Residents in Levels B and C could also be under a mandatory evacuation beginning Saturday.
PINELLAS COUNTY – County commissioners voted unanimously to authorize a mandatory evacuation beginning Friday (Sept. 8) for some Pinellas reisdents.
The mandatory order begins at 6 a.m. and applies to all county residents who have special needs or who live in mobile home parks. It also applies to residents of Level A evacuation zones, which are the lowest lying in the county. The order could be extended Saturday (Sept. 9) to include all residents in Levels B and C zones. The decision will hinge on the track Hurricane Irma takes over the next few days.
The decision to force evacuations comes at a time when Irma is projected to turn north and travel up Florida’s Atlantic Coast or go out to sea. However, that track is not certain and likely won’t be until sometime between noon and midnight Saturday. Until then, some weather models show the hurricane turning north but taking a more central or westerly route.
“That’s going to be our focal point,” Assistant County Administrator John Bennett said of the northward turn of the storm. When that turn happens will determine not only where the storm travels but how much it will impact the Tampa Bay area.
He and Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the mandatory evacuations will help make sure people will be safer.
“We have to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Bennett said.
Commission members agreed and unanimously passed the order during a special commission meeting today (Sept. 7)
However, if the situation changes, the order allows Gualtieri and County Administrator Mark Woodard to reverse course and either cancel the evacuation or allow people to return to their homes.
“It can be pulled back,” Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long said.
For information about evacuation zones, go to pinellascounty.org.
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