St. Lucie County strongly encourages barrier island residents to evacuate
As Tropical Storm Nicole closes in on Florida, St. Lucie County officials on Tuesday strongly encouraged residents who live on barrier islands and in low-lying areas and mobile homes to evacuate.
The National Hurricane Center said Nicole is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane somewhere between West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach late Wednesday or overnight Thursday.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, St. Lucie County public safety officials said Nicole could bring "significant" storm surge of 10 to 12 feet to parts of the Treasure Coast.
"This is a voluntary evacuation for those residents, specifically on barrier islands, North and South Hutchinson Island, low-lying areas, as well as mobile homes," said Rangel Guerrero, the public safety director for St. Lucie County. "We encourage them to seek shelter with friends and family."
County Administrator Howard Tipton said that while dangerous storm surge is expected, the predicted rainfall and winds from Nicole are not high enough to force mandatory evacuations.
"If we were looking at a Category 2 or 3 or anything higher, then we would certainly make it mandatory," Tipton said.
Anticipating a "significant erosion event," officials said all St. Lucie County beaches will close at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The county is opening three emergency storm shelters starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Two general population shelters will be at Westwood High School in Fort Pierce and Treasure Coast High School in Port St. Lucie, and a special needs shelter will be at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Fort Pierce.
"We always encourage those who are looking to evacuate to seek shelter with friends and family where they will be feeling more comfortable," Guerrero said. "These shelters are a place of last resort."
All St. Lucie County public schools will be closed Wednesday and Thursday due to Nicole, along with Friday for Veterans Day.
"We anticipate that we'll be under normal operations on Monday," Superintendent Jon Prince said.
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