With Manatee County under a hurricane warning and a mandatory evacuation order for waterfront and mobile home residents, shelters in Manatee County have already welcomed hundreds seeking safety from Hurricane Irma.
Before Hurricane warnings were extended to include Manatee County, local emergency officials ordered a mandatory evacuation on Friday morning for Zone A and mobile home residents. As a result, 22 of Manatee County’s 24 temporary shelters were opened on Friday.
By Friday evening, the shelters had welcomed 2,200 people.
Don and Gretchen Dover did not wait and were among the first to check into the shelter at Manatee High School within an hour of it opening.
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“We live on the Braden River in a tin can,” she said.
The couple, originally from New Castle, Pa., live in the Two Rivers mobile home park so mandatory or not, they planned to evacuate. But they didn’t come alone, they brought their 4-year-old dog, Charlie Brown.
“I wouldn’t leave him behind,” she said.
But before heading over to the shelter, she went to the veterinary and got Charlie Brown a sedative.
“This is the first time he’s been in a cage,” her husband said.
Manatee High School Principal David Underhill will be hunkering down in the storm along with evacuees, he said. Within two hours of the shelter opening on Friday, it had already welcomed about 150 people and several pets.
“We’re using one building right now with about 40 classrooms in it,” Underhill said. “If that fills up then we’ll move to a different building with more rooms, so hopefully we can accommodate anyone has needs.”
Steve Carucci, 74, was enjoying a sandwich in the Manatee High cafeteria where those evacuated will be served three meals a day until Irma passes. He and several of his friends and neighbors had evacuated from their homes in Bayshore on the Lake.
“It’s a high-rise building, and they were asking people on the upper levels to leave,” Carucci said. “You don’t know what to expect ... so I am just trying to adjust.”
An Air Force Vietnam veteran, Carucci, had never had to evacuate to a shelter for a tropical storm before since moving to Florida from Andover, Mass., 22 years ago. He came prepared with a couple changes of clothes and some snacks, he said, since he didn’t know how long he would have to stay.
“I hope by Sunday it might pass,” Carucci said.
The Orozco family was upset when then couldn’t bring their bunny and cockatiel to the shelter after already being unable to check in to their room at the Hampton Inn for the same reason.
“We only allow dogs,” Alain Oroaco said they were told. “If you take them in the room, we will call the police, and you will be arrested.”