A hurricane watch as well as tornado and flood warnings have been issued for Highlands County as Hurricane Ian draws down here.
Highlands County officials say there currently are about 60 people in the two shelters that have been opened – the Special Needs shelter at the Highlands Agri-Civic Center and the General Popluation Shelter in the Alan Jay Arena at the Highlands County Fairgrounds.
Officials advise residents to make their decisions whether or not they will head to a shelter as soon as possible as weather conditions may degrade quickly this afternoon.
No mandatory evacuations have been ordered, however, there are voluntary evacuations suggested for those living in low-lying areas and in non-slab built homes.
New Highlands County Emergency Management Services Director Brian Newhouse says at this point, it appears that the track will take the storm a bit further north and the county will face -at best- strong Category 2 Hurricane force winds when the storm arrives here.
People are being urged to bring in trash cans, political signs or any loose items that could become projectiles hurled by the wind. There are no trash collections slated for today or tomorrow.
Residents are reminded that emergency services will not respond to calls once the wind reaches approximately 40mph. By that time, residents need to stay where they are and be prepared to remain there until the storm passes.
All state, county and municipal offices have been closed today, as many businesses and services are shuttered as well. Residents are urged to call ahead and to stay home unless a trip is absolutely necessary.
There already has been one weather related electric outage, when as many as 1400 customers were without electricity this morning. A tornado was reported earlier today near Lake Placid. Apparently, it did not make ground contact. .
In Lake Wales, there are reports of tree that has come crashing down on house on Euclid Ave. Fire & Police on scene are looking for a possibly trapped elderly resident there.