Staff Report

Emergency officials across Southwest Florida met Friday in advance of Hurricane Dorian.

Charlotte and Sarasota commissioners passed local state-of-emergency declarations Friday morning. This does not mean Dorian is coming here. This allows local governments to operate emergency management procedures and obtain funding if necessary. It is usually the first formal step taken when gearing up for a tropical system that may have some kind of impact to a community.

Here’s what you need to know as Hurricane Dorian churns toward the East Coast of Florida.

Have they started evacuations locally?

No, but officials in both counties are meeting throughout the weekend.

Are any shelters open?

Not yet, but officials will open them if needed.

Where can I get sand bags?

Punta Gorda residents: Hounds on Henry Dog Park, 1098 W. Virginia Ave. The city will provide 10 bags per resident, who is responsible for filling the bags.

Unincorporated Charlotte County: Home improvement or landscaping stores (the county does not provide sand bags)

In South Sarasota County: Up to 10 bags per household is available while supplies last at the South County Fleet Facility, 4571 State Road 776/Englewood Road, Venice, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

North Port residents: The city of North Port is giving away sandbags from noon until 5 p.m. today at City Center Boulevard, behind the George Mullen Activity Center. There is a limit of five sandbags per vehicle. Residents must show a driver’s license with proof of current address within the city limits.

What has been canceled or closed?

• Pioneer Days events in Englewood have been postponed.

• Sunday’s Play in Park Day at CoolToday Park in West Villages. The Tomahawk Tiki Bar will remain open until further notice.

• All Charlotte County parks, pools, recreation centers

• All Charlotte and Sarasota county libraries

• Reservations for outdoor and indoor parks facilities in Sarasota County.

Will Allegiant flights be affected?

Yes. Anyone taking a flight in the next few days should check with your airlines. Allegiant passengers can check allegiantair.com for the most updated flight information.

Scheduled service to and from the Punta Gorda Airport may be disrupted beginning today as Allegiant flights could be affected at the following airports: Fort-Lauderdale Hollywood, Jacksonville, Orlando Sanford, Sarasota-Bradenton, St. Pete-Clearwater and San Juan in Puerto Rico.

Allegiant is offering passengers two easy ways to contact customer service to change Dorian-affected flights at no charge: call 702-505-8888 or email hurricane.help@allegiantair.com. “This email is specifically for those Florida passengers who want to make a change to their existing reservation. When emailing, they should include their name, itinerary number, phone number and instructions on the change they want to make,” stated Hilarie Grey, spokesperson for Allegiant Travel Company.

How about the rest of operations at the Punta Gorda Airport?

Aircraft will be grounded and tower operations will stop if winds reach sustained speeds of 50 mph or more.

Punta Gorda Airport staff is securing gust locks on T-hangars and will have emergency staff at the airport monitoring the storm status. The gates to the air-side hangars will be manually secured with chain locks if winds approach 40 mph.

“We’re battening down the hatches,” said airport spokesperson Kaley Miller.

The self-serve fuel station will remain operational until it becomes unsafe. Access to the hangars after the storm may not be available if there are power outages.

Will there be school on Tuesday (Labor Day is Monday)?

Sarasota County Schools: To be decided this weekend.

Charlotte County Schools: To be decided this weekend.

DeSoto County Schools: To be decided Monday unless something significant changes over the weekend.

Florida SouthWestern State College and Florida Gulf Coast University: Closed

How can I stay informed on Dorian?

In addition to staying informed by the National Hurricane Center, local news outlets (yoursun.com is free right now due to Dorian) and meteorologists, enroll in your local government’s emergency notification system. You will receive instant notifications as to evacuations, water boil notices and other emergency information specific to your home address.

Charlotte County Emergency Alert program: www.alertcharlotte.com

Punta Gorda CodeRED Notification System: bit.ly/PGCodeRED

DeSoto County Emergency Alert Program: bit.ly/DeSotoAlerts

Sarasota County CodeRED Notification System: bit.ly/SarasotaCodeRED

North Port CodeRed Notification System: bit.ly/NorthPortCodeRED

Livestock shelter option available

Mosaic Arena, 2450 NE Roan, in DeSoto County has some space available for livestock. Call 863-494-2014 for more information.

Contractors on notice

Charlotte County alerted its 4,000-contractor database earlier in the week to remind them to secure the 600-some construction sites. If you see an unsecured site, call the contractor listed on the posted permit.

Staff writers Brianna Kwasnik, Liz Hardaway, Tom Harmening, Victoria Villanueva-Marquez, Elaine Allen-Emrich, Daniel Sutphin and Craig Garrett contributed to this report.

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