Officials in Charlotte, Sarasota and DeSoto counties have not yet made a decision about school closings and shelter openings as they wait to see the track of what will become Hurricane Ian.
Meanwhile, shoppers are raiding shelves in supermarkets and stores, clearing them of water, while motorists at some locations are filling up, causing some pumps to become empty.
Local hardware stores are reporting a run on flashlights, lanterns, tarp, bungee cords and batteries of all sizes.
Some of the hurricane tips are to have a full tank of gas in case you need to evacuate, for each person to have 1 gallon of water per day for at least three days and to have flashlights, batteries and other hurricane supplies.
Charlotte County Emergency Management Director Patrick Fuller will have a 2:30 Sunday conference call with the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, city staff, Charlotte County Public Schools Superintendent Steve Dionisio and Department of Health and other officials to discuss the storm’s latest track and whether the county should close schools.
“No decisions have been made yet,” Charlotte County spokesman Brian Gleason said.
He said the best way for residents of Charlotte County to follow the storm’s track is to go to the National Hurricane Center’s website at nhc.noaa.gov, or the county website for hurricane preparedness and other information at bit.ly/3xSUIgx.
He said those residents who do not have internet access can call the call center at 941-575-4000.
Charlotte County Public Schools spokesman Mike Riley said there is one shelter in Charlotte County not deemed low-lying — at Babcock Ranch — and that some local schools would provide shelter in the event people need to leave their homes.
During Hurricane Irma, Charlotte County residents were accepted into Sarasota County shelters, Sarasota County spokesperson Brianne Grant said.
“At this time we haven’t made any decisions,” Sarasota County Communications Manager Drew Winchester said.
A decision regarding opening shelters and whether to order evacuations would come in the next 24 hours, he told The Daily Sun on Saturday afternoon.
He advised residents to “pay attention to local news” or to call 311 for information. People living outside the county can also call Sarasota County for hurricane and/or shelter information at 941-861-5000.
The county’s website for Ian updates, preparedness tips and video messages is bit.ly/3xQWvCQ
Sandbag operations will begin from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday at various locations in Sarasota County, including North Port.
Sarasota County Schools will have a conference call with Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office and other government officials, Sarasota County Schools spokesman Craig Maniglia said.
He said if the shelters open, schools would be closed.
But schools also could be closed whether the shelters open or not, since buses will not operate if there are sustained winds of 35 mile per hour or more.
He advised checking the county’s website which also gives information about shelters, their locations and other information.
If a person cannot drive to a shelter, they can proceed to the nearest rallying point where a bus would take them to the shelter. Pets are welcomed but need paperwork, food, medical needs taken care of and their own crates, if possible.
Those who cannot drive can arrange to be picked up at their home, but arrangements must be made in advance by filling out an application found on the website.
Shelters are located at four North Port schools and at eight other public schools throughout Sarasota County.
Sarasota County evacuation centers accept only domestic dogs and cats.
Transportation will cease when landfall is expected within eight hours.
City of North Port residents can bookmark NorthPortFl.gov/Alerts for the latest storm updates.
Helpful information for business owners can be found at www.NorthPortFL.gov/BizHelp for a list of emergency resources and links for disaster preparedness, provided by North Port Economic Development.
Beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday, the city is giving out sandbags at the Larry Thoennissen Athletic Fields behind the George Mullen Activity Center at the end of City Center Boulevard. Bags, sand and shovels will be provided, with a limit of 10 bags per vehicle.
More than 900 sandbags were provided Saturday.
DeSoto County Emergency Management Director Rick Christoff said the county is closely monitoring the Peace River and Horse Creek stage levels after recent rains caused them to rise.
“We’re anticipating a decent amount of rain,” he said.
As of Saturday afternoon, the Peace River was at 14.6 feet which is “a moderate flood stage,” Christoff said.
The moderate flood stage begins at 14 feet, he added.
Horse Creek was at 13.1 feet; minor flood stage for that body of water begins at 12 feet.
He said whether or not DeSoto County gets a significant amount of rain, emergency management is watching counties upstream, as the Peace River flows south.
DeSoto County partners with the National Weather Service and other partners to get the latest information which would determine whether shelters will open and schools close.
Evacuation zones can be found on county websites or by visiting www.yoursun.com.