Florida fortifies Tampa amid flood threats from hurricane

Ian is expected to make landfall near Levy County, north of Tampa Bay, and is expected to bring rain, flooding and dangerous storm surges. DeSantis said the state’s Division of Emergency Management has already summoned more than 300 medical professionals to special needs shelters around Tampa Bay, along with 300 ambulances and hundreds of generators and mobile pumps for help mitigate power loss and flooding in the area. Voluntary evacuations have already begun further up the coast in Collier County.

DeSantis said localities will declare more evacuations throughout the day.

« Be on the lookout for this because I know we’ve conferred with many local officials that this is going to happen, » DeSantis said.

DeSantis declared a state of emergency long before Ian landed last week. President Joe Biden also announced an emergency for Florida on Saturday, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help coordinate aid. So far, the Republican governor has deployed 5,000 members of the Florida National Guard to help with storm preparations. A state official said 2,000 additional guards from Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee have been called in to help.

Ian’s potential flooding could leave thousands of residents without power, even if the eye of the storm remains offshore. National Guard Maj. Gen. James O. Eifert said Monday he plans to reposition troops as the storm’s path becomes clearer.

« We are also continuously assessing the storm’s location and track, and repositioning and prepositioning our resources and personnel to be able to respond most immediately and effectively once landfall passes, » Eifert said. « So here we are, we’re ready. »

DeSantis said the state also faces the challenge of filling gas stations in areas where fuel is shipped to one of the state’s seaports. Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said the Port of Tampa Bay should close but ports along the Atlantic coast should remain open. U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson is due to arrive in the state on Tuesday to make plans.

“He has already prepared to expedite the opening of these ports and to reopen them so that we can achieve this,” Guthrie said of McPherson.

To make travel easier, DeSantis said he removed tolls on major thoroughfares along the Gulf Coast, from Okaloosa County to Alligator Alley in South Florida, and waived weight restrictions that make it easier for trucks to bring in supplies from out of state. For example, one of the largest gasoline suppliers serving North Florida is in Bainbridge, Georgia, about 40 miles from Tallahassee. The location was instrumental in delivering fuel to the state after Hurricane Irma closed ports on both sides of the state after making landfall in September 2017.

DeSantis also warned residents not to hoard supplies. Publix Super Markets, which has more than 700 locations across the state, is already seeing residents shopping for tons of supplies ahead of the storm.

« There’s no need to panic to buy, » DeSantis said. « If you don’t normally drink a lot of water, you don’t need to buy 20 gallons of water. »


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