ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – As Hurricane Ian continues to gain strength, residents were asked to evacuate the Tampa Bay area on Tuesday.
In Hillsborough County, a mandatory evacuation order is in place for those in a level 1 area and a voluntary evacuation order is in place for residents in a level 2 area, which includes low-lying areas and mobile facilities.
According to authorities, mandatory evacuations are already underway in low-lying parts of Pinellas, Hillsborough, and manatee counties.
“You will be on your own at some point if you’re in an evacuation zone and you choose not to move,” St. Petersburg Mayor Kenneth T. Welch said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis took note of the region’s vulnerability during a Tuesday press conference, saying the impacts to that area would be severe even without a direct hit.
Residents in Pinellas County, which is closer to the shore, have been asked to evacuate because some areas in the Tampa area are facing up to 10 feet of storm surge.
As Hurricane Ian sets its sights just south of the Tampa Bay area, the biggest concern is the water surge.
“Even just with the normal rain like we have been having, it comes up about 2 feet,” said a Tampa Bay resident.
All across the Tampa Bay area, businesses and homes are boarding up and people getting out of town while they still can.
“I think it’s pretty safe,” said Tampa resident Sal Montalvo. “It’s been through a lot of wind, but with all the new construction around--I heard it’s gonna be around 6-foot waves coming into town.”
Even before MacFarlane park opened on Tuesday, a long line formed for people to get sandbags in order to protect their properties.
“We got them ready to go for it,” said a sandbag distributor.
It’s been over 100 years since the Tampa Bay area has received a direct hit, but residents like Michael Lowry (a different Lowry than Local 10′s hurricane specialist and storm surge expert) told Local 10 News that he and his family have no plans to stay.
“We are planning on getting our house together and getting out of town,” said Lowry.
For those staying local, even evacuating 20 minutes inland will make a difference.
“We are actually getting out of the area, trying to prep the house and then get out of the area eventually,” said one resident.