With Hurricane Irma making a northern shift in some forecasting models, people in Gainesville, Florida and Alachua County are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. Is Gainesville evacuating in advance of Irma?
There are voluntary evacuations in Gainesville and Alachua County, and shelters are now open. There is a hurricane warning in place for Alachua County, and hurricane conditions are possible Sunday night and Monday.
The county wrote: “Beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, September 9, 2017, Alachua County is issuing a Voluntary Evacuation order for those living in mobile homes, manufactured homes, recreational vehicles or homes which may not withstand hurricane force winds and those in flood prone areas. We are encouraging evacuees to stay with friends, family or in a hotel. Those considering using the emergency shelters, please remember that shelters are a choice of last resort. Do not leave your pets behind.
Even though tropical storm force winds are not predicted to impact Alachua County until some time Sunday, we encourage those who will be utilizing the shelters to evacuate as close to the opening as possible as Alachua County will be receiving evacuees from the South. All shelters are on a first come first served basis. General population shelters do not provide cots or beds. Bring any needed bedding. When packing to go to a shelter, please bring special dietary foods, baby food, diapers (and other child necessities), prescription medications, a small cooler of ice if refrigeration is needed as the shelter cannot be responsible for your medications. Also bring spare clothing, personal care items (hygiene, toiletries, etc.), spare eyeglasses/contacts, and identification.
Current identified shelters and their opening times are as follows:
Archer Community School
14533 SW 170th St, Archer, FL
Opening 9/9/2017 at noon
Alachua Elementary School
13800 Northwest 152nd Place, Alachua, FL 32615
Buchholz High School
5510 NW 27th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32606
Chiles Elementary School
2525 School House Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608
Kanapaha Middle School
5005 SW 75th St, Gainesville, FL 32608
Meadowbrook Elementary School
11525 NW 39th Ave. | Gainesville, FL 32606
Rawlings Elementary School
3500 NE 15th St, Gainesville, FL 32609
Santa Fe High School
16213 US-441, Alachua, FL 32615
Shell Elementary School
21633 65th Ave, Hawthorne, FL 32640
Williams Elementary School
1245 SE 7th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32641
Alachua County Senior Center
5701 NW 34th Blvd, Gainesville, FL 32653
Easton Newbery Sports Complex
24880 NW 16 Ave, Newberry, FL 32669
Waldo Community School
14450 NE 148th Ave, Waldo, FL 32694
For more information call 311.”
Alachua County, which Gainesville is in, also wrote on September 9: “Hurricane Irma is forecast to track westward and then north once it reaches the Florida Keys. Irma is likely to hug the western coast of the Florida peninsula. What this means is that the strongest side of the storm (northeast quadrant) will be the side closest to Alachua County once Irma makes her way to our part of the state. This increases our chance of heavier rains and the threat of tornadoes. We are likely to experience Category 1 (74-95mph sustained winds) hurricane force winds, especially in the western portions of the County. Remember that wind gusts will be even higher.
The timing for arrival, based off current information, shows tropical storm force winds arriving as early as Sunday morning and continuing into Monday. In an abundance of caution, we urge everyone to already be in your designated safe place no later than Saturday night. Today is truly the last day to get final preparations for your home, family, and pets in place. As with all hurricanes, the situation is very fluid. Each new advisory from the National Hurricane Center could potentially change the expected impacts for Alachua County. #AlachuaPrepares #HurricaneIrma.”
Alachua County’s emergency management team also noted on Facebook, “Statewide, all schools, colleges, and universities are closed tomorrow. Alachua County Schools, UF, and Santa Fe are also closed Monday.” See a list of updated, useful information in Alachua County about Hurricane Irma.
However, Alachua County is opening 12 evacuation shelters for those who feel they need them. “This will provide for the safe sheltering of over 7,000 of Florida’s most vulnerable residents. Nine general population shelters, one special needs shelter, and two pet-friendly shelters are being opened. The shelters will be staffed by Alachua County, Florida Department of Health in Alachua County, and Alachua County Public Schools personnel,” the county wrote on its website.
Here’s a more detailed list of identified shelters with their addresses:
Shelter Type Shelter Name Address Opening Time
General Population Alachua Elementary School 13800 Northwest 152nd Place, Alachua, FL 32615 9/8/2017; 3:00 pm
General Population Buchholz High School 5510 NW 27th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32606 9/8/2017; 4:00 pm
General Population Chiles Elementary School 2525 School House Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608 9/8/2017; 3:00 pm
General Population Kanapaha Middle School 5005 SW 75th St, Gainesville, FL 32608 9/8/2017; 5:00 pm
General Population Meadowbrook Elementary School 11525 NW 39th Ave. | Gainesville, FL 32606 9/8/2017; 3:00 pm
General Population Rawlings Elementary School 3500 NE 15th St, Gainesville, FL 32609 9/8/2017; 4:00 pm
General Population Santa Fe High School 16213 US-441, Alachua, FL 32615 9/8/2017; 4:00 pm
General Population Shell Elementary School 21633 65th Ave, Hawthorne, FL 32640 9/8/2017; 3:00 pm
General Population Williams Elementary School 1245 SE 7th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32641 9/8/2017; 3:00 pm
Special Needs Alachua County Senior Center 5701 NW 34th Blvd, Gainesville, FL 32653 9/8/2017; 10:00 am
Pet-Friendly Easton Newbery Sports Complex 24880 NW 16 Ave, Newberry, FL 32669 9/8/2017; 10:00 am
Pet-Friendly Waldo Community School 14450 NE 148th Ave, Waldo, FL 32694 9/8/2017; 5:00 pm
According to Gainesville.com, “The National Hurricane Center on Thursday evening changed the predicted path of Irma, saying it expects the powerful hurricane to crush the southern tip of Florida and head north up the spine of the peninsula, with the eye of the storm traveling over far eastern Marion County. Forecasters project that the new track could mean that far eastern Marion, near Salt Springs, could experience 100 mph wind, with higher gusts. Areas in eastern Alachua County near Orange Heights could experience 75 mph wind early Monday if the forecast track holds.”
However, since that frightening report, latest forecast models have shown the storm shifting to the west. However, it remains unpredictable.
The City of Gainesville has a list of Hurricane preparation suggestions here.
You can see a map of the county’s shelters here.
For those considering using the emergency shelters, the county noted, “please remember that general population shelters are a last resort, and should only be used by those living in homes that are potentially unsafe in high winds (e.g. mobile homes), people who live in flood-prone areas, and people who have nowhere else to go.”
The county added, “The special needs shelter has cots available. Please be sure that you bring all medications, medical supplies, hygiene products, medical equipment (i.e. pumps, batteries, charges, A/C Adapters, etc.) If a person requires constant care, the appropriate caregiver is required come to the shelter and stay with the person requiring care.”