The National Weather Service has extended the hurricane watches north to Anna Maria Island on Florida’s west coast, putting Manatee and Sarasota counties under hurricane watch.
Hurricane Irma remains a powerful Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds at 165 mph as of the 11 p.m. advisory. It’s moving west-northwest at 16 mph. Despite the decrease in maximum sustained winds, the pressure remains 920 mb, meaning Irma could still regain strength in the coming days.
The trend Thursday has been for the forecast track to shift slightly west, increasing the likelihood of Manatee and Sarasota counties experiencing tropical storm or even hurricane-force winds.
Manatee County officials issued a voluntary evacuation order earlier Thursday for those who live in Zone A, mostly neighborhoods on or near waterfront, and mobile homes.
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The evacuations, which go into effect at 7 a.m. Friday, were announced by county officials at the Emergency Operations Center.
The following shelters will be opened to the public at 4 p.m. Friday, some of which are pet friendly:
- Myakka Elementary School, 37205 Manatee Ave., Myakka City
- Braden River High, 6545 State Road 70 E., Bradenton, pet friendly
- Manatee High School, 1000 32nd St. W., Bradenton, pet friendly
- Mills Elementary, 7200 69th St. E., Palmetto, pet friendly
- Nolan Middle School, 6615 Greenbrook Blvd., Lakewood Ranch, special needs, pet friendly