Manatee County in state of emergency; schools closed Monday

MANATEE — County commissioners Saturday afternoon declared Manatee County in a local state of emergency as Tropical Storm Isaac moves toward the Gulf of Mexico.

The city of Bradenton also declared a local state of emergency at 5 p.m.

Manatee County schools are closed Monday. The status for Tuesday is pending, said school spokeswoman Margi Nanney. Sarasota County announced schools there would also be closed Monday.

The storm is expected to be off of Florida’s west coast by Monday as a Category 1 hurricane, “The difference from Debby is we will see a hurricane in the Gulf,” said Laurie Feagans, Manatee County emergency management chief, told commissioners at a 3:30 p.m. emergency meeting Saturday. “What were looking at is a wind event for us with a lot of rain.”

At 11 p.m. Saturday, Isaac’s was strengthening, it’s center 340 miles east-southeast of Key West with sustained winds of 60 mph. It was moving northwest at 17 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The center of the storm was expected to move near or over the Florida Keys -- at or near hurricane strength -- by Sunday. Isaac is forecast to move over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico by early Monday.

Current projections show the storm will move within 91 miles of Manatee County, but that is subject to change, Feagans said.

Tropical winds should be present by 7 p.m. Sunday and continue through 5 a.m. Tuesday. Manatee County is expected to get five to eight inches of rain Sunday and Monday, something Feagans sees as problematic since the area is already saturated.

Special needs citizens have been contacted. The special needs shelter at Nolan Middle School will open at 10 a.m. Sunday for volunteer evacuations.

Feagans suggests due to high winds, that all people living in mobile homes should evacuate. Manatee High School and Bradenton River High School will open at 10 a.m. Sunday. Nolan Middle School and Manatee High School are pet-friendly shelters.

The Emergency Operations Center is activating to Level 1 at 8 a.m. Sunday.

Cities have sand bags available. Individuals can also fill up to 10 bags with sand from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and Monday at the following locations:

-- Buffalo Creek Golf Course-- GT Bray Recreation Center-- Lakewood Ranch Park-- 39th Street Stormwater Facility-- Rubonia Community Center

Sandbags for Bradenton will be available 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Public Works. Proof of residency is required and a maximum of 10 bags can be taken per household.

Gov. Rick Scott declared Florida a state of emergency earlier Saturday, as the Republican National Convention gears up to begin Monday. The governor said during a media briefing that delegates were being told on how to stay safe during a storm, and officials were ready for storm surge, bridge closures and other problems that could arise during the convention. He also said he was in close communication with local, state and federal agencies, as well as convention officials.

“We are a hospitality state. We know how to take care of people and we want to ensure their safety,” Scott said Saturday.

The Florida Highway Patrol reminds drivers to avoid driving in heavy storms, drive slowly if on roadways and be cautious of high winds.

-- Material from The Assoaciated Press was used in this story