TAMPA — Hillsborough County has issued a voluntary evacuation notice for special needs residents in Evacuation Zone A.
The decision came Thursday afternoon with the goal to get those residents to safety first in the event conditions deteriorate here, said Preston Cook, the county's emergency management director. The two special needs shelters will be open at 8 a.m. Friday.
"We're getting them out of harm's way to make sure they have a safe location before we receive any impacts from the storm," Cook said.
In addition, the county will open 14 other shelters starting at 8 a.m. Saturday for residents in Evacuation Zone A whose homes are vulnerable to wind damage, as well as evacuees from other Florida counties who have been unable to find shelter elsewhere.
Zone A includes low-lying areas vulnerable to flooding and storm surge and all mobile homes in the county. Additional evacuation recommendations or orders may be forthcoming later Thursday or Friday as officials continue to monitor Hurricane Irma's forecast track, Cook said.
Special needs shelters are defined by the county as "a temporary emergency facility capable of providing care to residents whose medical condition may require the use of electrical equipment, oxygen, dialysis, or individuals with physical, cognitive, or medical conditions who may require assistance from medical professionals."
Although special needs shelters provide more care than a general shelter, they do not provide the level of care found in a medical center, according to the county's web site.
It was not immediately clear Thursday how many special needs evacuees reside in Zone A or how many have registered with the county.
The two special needs shelters are the Sun Dome at the University of South Florida, 4202 E Fowler Ave., and Strawberry Crest High School, 4691 Gallagher Road in Dover.
Special needs evacuees were asked to pre-register with the county, but evacuees who aren't registered but meet the guidelines will not be turned away at a shelters, a county spokesman said. Transportation to special needs shelters on the county's Sunshine Line may be available.
To find out more about the shelters, registration and transportation, call (813) 236-3800.
Here is the list of general shelters:
• Middleton High School, 4801 N 22nd St., Tampa
• Simmons Career Center, 1202 W Grant Street, Plant City
• Pizzo Elementary School, 11701 Bull Run, Tampa
• Cypress Creek Elementary School, 400 19th Ave NE, Ruskin
• Hammond Elementary School, 8008 N Mobley Road, Odessa
• Sessums Elementary School, 11525 Ramble Creek Drive, Tampa
• Brandon High School, 1101 Victoria Street, Brandon
• Valrico Elementary School, 609 South Miller Road, Valrico
• Summerfield Crossings Elementary School, 11050 Fairway Meadow Road, Valrico
• Greco Middle School, 6925 East Fowler Ave., Temple Terrace
Pet friendly general shelters
• Shields Middle School, 15732 Beth Shields Ways, Ruskin
• Bartels Middle School, 9020 Imperial Oak Blvd., Tampa
• Smith, Sgt. Paul Middle School, 14303 Citrus Pointe Drive, Tampa
•Burnett Middle School, 1010 N Kingsway Road, Seffner
Contact Tony Marrero at email@example.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.