Hurricane Ian heads toward Florida

Lee County officials in southwest Florida are enforcing a mandatory evacuation order for residents living in Zone A and parts of Zone B of the county, officials said Tuesday.

The province is currently under a hurricane watch, tropical storm warning and storm surge warning, according to a Facebook post from Monday evening.

“The evacuation this morning is a mandatory evacuation order, and it’s as mandatory as it gets,” Lee County manager Roger Desjarlais said at a news conference on Tuesday. “We don’t go from house to house to force people to leave, but we emphasize how important it is that people stay away.”

Zone A is generally surrounded by low-lying areas that tend to flood, Desjarlais said. Residents living in mobile and fabricated homes are also being encouraged to leave, he added.

Government offices are closed on Tuesday and will not reopen until Thursday, according to the province’s website. All toll plazas on Lee County have been suspended “until further notice,” the county added.

The county’s school district and its offices, which serve nearly 100,000 students, are also closed Tuesday and Wednesday. School officials said they would re-evaluate when they would reopen at 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

There are 10 pet-friendly emergency shelters opening at 9 a.m. ET across the province, Desjarlais said. Residents seeking shelter information, zone information and Ian’s whereabouts can check the county’s website and Facebook.

County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, also present at the press conference, emphasized the uncertainty of the storm at this time.

“I just want to make it clear that we’re going to feel this storm — how bad isn’t determined yet,” Marceno said. “Understand and we emphasize the fact that once the wind reaches a sustained 45 miles per hour, law enforcement officers, emergency services, will not respond. So, God forbid anyone needs 911 and they call, a law enforcement officer is not going to respond until it is safe is.”

Lee County is located about 132 miles west of West Palm Beach, Florida.

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