Polk Co. residents uncertain path of Hurricane Irma

Shelters will open at 7 a.m. Saturday across Polk County. Workers who will man them and county officials met Friday afternoon for a briefing at the Polk Emergency Operations Center to run through their hurricane plans.

“We’re getting ready for the influx of people coming in, both locally and out of towners,” said Jeremy Maready, spokesperson for Polk County Government on Friday. “There aren’t any mandatory evacuations right now, but we do tell people that if you are in a situation with low lying areas or a mobile home where you might not feel comfortable, go out to one of the shelters,” Maready added.

Lakeland residents Aaron and Jordan Bartholomew moved most of their outdoor belongings inside at their mobile home off Rock Ridge Road on Friday. The couple said they are preparing to evacuate to a relatives’ house in Pinellas County, along with their many animals.

“We’ve got two dogs, two goats, two ducks and there are four chickens,” said Aaron Bartholomew. “Also a little chick, plus a guinea hen.”

The couple said they are concerned their mobile home could be crushed by nearby trees due to hurricane-force winds.

“I wasn’t as nervous until [Hurricane Irma] started coming a little bit further west. It’s scary. We just moved in. We have a brand new house, and now we have to leave it,” said Jordan Bartholomew.

As of Friday, Polk County officials said no mandatory evacuations were issued for the county. Most of the phone calls at the County EOC came from residents in search of sand bags, which have been running out across multiple counties.

On Friday, 70,000 more bags were distributed, along with sand, to four fire station fill-up locations. Polk County officials said they expect to get more bags by Saturday morning, but sand bag locations will shut down at noon on Saturday.

To find a sand bag location in Polk County, visit: https://www.polk-county.net/emergency-management/sandbag-fill-sites

For information on Polk County evacuation shelters, visit: https://www.polk-county.net/emergency-management/emergency-shelters