Alachua County declares local state of emergency

National Weather Service Hurricane Ian forecast 9-26-22
Hurricane Ian is forecasted to hit North Central Florida this Thursday and Friday. (National Weather Service)

Alachua County declared a local state of emergency on Monday and activated the 311 Emergency Information Line for questions and rumor control as Hurricane Ian looks increasingly likely to strike North Central Florida.

Emergency shelters will be opening on Tuesday, including places for special medical needs, pet-friendly and general population locations. Residents can also receive alert messages by texting ALACHUA to 888777.

The declaration came hours after the National Weather Service (NWS) upgraded Tropical Storm Ian to hurricane status, with forecast models indicating it will hit North Central Florida by Thursday or Friday.

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NWS predicts a 70% chance of tropical storm strength winds (39-73 miles per hour), 38% chance of strong tropical storm force winds and an 18% chance of hurricane strength winds (74-plus mph). Rainfall totals could range from 7 to 15 inches regionally.

Although Ian could still make landfall in a range of locations along the Florida Gulf coast, North Central Florida currently sits in the center of the “cone of uncertainty.”

The city of Gainesville will host a one-hour telephone town hall meeting on Tuesday at 6 p.m. to update residents about storm preparations. Residents can dial 1-888-400-1932 for the time of the event and Spanish speakers are invited to call 1-888-400-9342.

Register in advance for the town hall through this link to receive an automatic reminder call before the start of the event. The city will live stream the town hall on Facebook, and on the city of Gainesville’s website

Area counties will provide sandbags at the following locations:

Newberry (starting Monday afternoon)

  • Public Work’s Compound – 120 NW 260th Street

Alachua County (starting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday)

  • Wayside Park – 11855 NW US 441, Alachua (limit of 10 bags per person)

Columbia County (7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday)

  • Columbia County Public Works – 607 NW Quinten St., Lake City
  • Southside Sports Complex – 1963 SW Bascom Norris Dr., Lake City
  • Ft. White Community Center – 17579 FL 47, Fort White

Bradford County (starting at 1 p.m. Monday, resuming at 10 a.m. Tuesday)

  • BCFR Station 40 – Heilbronn Springs, 21412 NW SR 16, Starke
  • BCFR Station 90 – Sampson City, 13641 SW CR 227, Starke

The Levy County School District announced it will close its schools on Wednesday and Thursday. All other area school districts are working with the local county emergency management teams regarding possible closures.

Florida Gateway College in Lake City will close its campus from Thursday through Sunday. The closure includes all offices, residence halls, and satellite locations.

As of Monday morning, the University of Florida will still host Eastern Washington’s football team at noon Saturday.

“Currently, Saturday’s football game between UF-Eastern Washington is scheduled as planned,” said UF athletic director Scott Stricklin in a statement. “The UAA is working with campus, local and state officials to closely monitor Hurricane Ian and its potential impact on Gainesville and the surrounding communities.”

Tips to prepare for the storm can be found by clicking here. The NOAA also has a complete “National Hurricane Preparedness” site that includes risk assessment, evacuation planning and a checklist of disaster supplies.

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