Mandatory evacuation order issued

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Hurricane Irma heading toward southwest Florida on Sept. 8, 2017 made Anna Maria Island residents anxious.

A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for Anna Maria Island, all of level ‘A’ and all mobile homes in Manatee County, effective as of noon today, Friday, Sept. 8.

“Hurricane Irma’s latest projected shift west puts our community at greater risk of very strong winds and quite a bit more rain than was projected yesterday,” Emergency Management Chief Sherilyn Burris said.

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Irma is expected late Saturday evening to turn north onto Florida’s peninsula, but exactly where is unknown, according to the latest forecast. Hurricane force winds are expected locally Sunday afternoon through Monday. The evacuation decision was based in part on the likelihood of storm surge, she said.

“Mandatory evacuation locations are critical for us to secure,” Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells said. “When tropical force winds reach 45 mph we cannot come in and help you. It’s too unsafe for my deputies to be out there trying to respond to emergency calls. It’s critical to get out. Get out now.”

Residents need two forms of identification including a photo ID to return home when the county declares it safe, he said, warning looters, “If you try to loot we are taking you to jail.”

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale advises Island residents that police cannot remove people from their homes.

Roads and bridges will be closed to incoming traffic at some point Saturday afternoon. Island businesses that serve alcohol must close at the point, he said.

“We will be ramping up all public safety efforts,” including more EMTs, Public Safety Director Bob Smith said. However, those workers will not be responding when winds reach 45 mph, he said, adding, “Stay tuned to media outlets, including social media.”

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23 of Manatee County’s 24 temporary shelters will be open by 4 p.m. today, but should be a last resort, he said, requesting that people “Seek refuge with family, friends and other locations.”

Emergency Communications Chief Jake Saur asked Manatee County residents to only call 911 in an emergency. Other calls with concerns or questions related to Hurricane Irma should be directed to the Citizens Information Center line at (941) 749-3547.

“Civility, kindness, patience is important. Angst will pick up as the storm gets closer and we need people to remain calm. The storm will bring heavy rains and rising water. If you can leave, leave. If you’re going to stay, be prepared,” Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said.