Floridians find refuge in shelters as Hurricane Ian approaches

Hurricane Ian

(NewsNation) — A high school gym in Sarasota, Florida, is one of many community buildings now acting as a shelter as people brace for Hurricane Ian.

Tracy Clay and his wife Bobbi brought everything they’d need for the next few days at Riverview High School, now their temporary home while they wait out their first hurricane. They said they hope everyone is safe when they return after the storm passes.

“It’s a mobile home park, so if it goes the track that it seems to be going now, it looks like it might come right over Sarasota County,” Tracy Clay said.

Sandra Marquez and her daughter brought all of their things to an elementary school about an hour south of Tampa which is also serving as a shelter.

“It’s really just the fact that it looks like the hurricane is coming on a path directly to Sarasota and I have a young daughter, she’s five, and it’s not worth taking any chances,” Marquez said.

Across Sarasota County, 12 shelters are open and ready to hold thousands of people. Two others are on standby as Florida’s west coast braces for fast-approaching hurricane. 

Kathy Wilks, assistant principal at Riverview High School, said she’s expecting most people to arrive Wednesday. The school can hold roughly 5,000 people.

“The gym is where we start and then once we run out of capacity in the gym, then we start to move over to our main classroom building,” Wilks said.

In nearby Siesta Key, home and business owners have boarded up, bracing for what officials have called “a very serious situation.”

“I think the storm surge is the biggest thing that’s the most concerning, and this area isn’t really well prepared for a rain storm,” local business owner Kristin Hale said. “So the storm surge is a little bit scary.”

Another business owner, Robert Gnazzo, said he’s hoping for the best.

“We’re elevated so we don’t expect a lot of water,” Gnazzo said. “We’ll see.”

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