Manatee County Sheriff's Office announces it will impose a 24-hour curfew as conditions are deteriorating as Hurricane Irma approaches the west coast of Florida.
Beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday, the sheriff’s office will impose a 24-hour curfew -- and it will be enforced.
“We are going to enforce this curfew. It’s a second-degree misdemeanor so I’m urging you to stay inside until 3 p.m. tomorrow afternoon,” Sheriff Rick Wells said. “We’re not going to tolerate looters. We will put them in jail. We have plenty of room at the jail. That is where they will find their safe haven once the storm has passed.”
Once winds reach tropical storm force, law enforcement and emergency personnel will be hunkering down.
“During that time everyone needs to remain in their home, a shelter or other location but not out here on our highways and roadways in Manatee County,” Wells said. “After the storm passes, we have no idea what the conditions are going to be ... we know the conditions are going to be unsafe.”
As a result, law enforcement will be the first out after the storm passes. There are currently seven first-in teams deployed and stationed throughout the county, according to the sheriff’s office.
Manatee County Commission acting chair Robin DiSabatino called for a moment of silence everywhere at 3 p.m.
As of 9 a.m., Hurricane Irma’s eye was over the lower Florida Keys, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm was 20 miles east of Key West.
Irma is moving north-northwest at 8 mph and has sustained winds of 130 mph, as of the 8 a.m. advisory.
Manatee County is also under a storm surge warning in addition to a hurricane warning.
Lakewood Ranch High School, 5800 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., has been designated as the shelter of last resort, according to county officials. The shelter opened at 9 a.m. Sunday as many other shelters were already at capacity.
“Please go if you have no where else to go,” DiSabatino said. “Please be vigilant and go there now.”
Pets will be accepted at Lakewood Ranch. The sheriff’s office was also transporting 50 animal crates from Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue for those people who don’t have one.
At least 21,000 people in Manatee County have taken shelter in a public school. Williams and Gene Witt elementary schools are the other shelters with the most capacity still available.
As of 6 p.m. Saturday, all access to Anna Maria Island was cut off, as the entire island is included in the mandatory evacuation of Zone A. There was also a voluntary evacuation issued for Zone B.
Water was also shut off to the island before Sunday morning.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge was also shut down Saturday night and will remain close through the duration of the storm.
After the storm has passed, Manatee County Public Safety Director Bob Smith asked that residents first ensure their family is safe and then to check on neighbors.
“There is going to come a point after the worse of the storm has passed us, that we are going to have to come together as a community to start the recovery process,” Smith says. “It’s going to be neighbors helping neighbors process.”