UPDATE 5:14 p.m.
Hotels and motels in Sanibel will be mandatorily evacuated tonight at 6 p.m. Mandatory evacuation of the Barrier islands including Bonita Beach, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Captiva and Pine Island goes into effect 9 a.m. Friday.
As Hurricane Irma approaches Florida, Lee County’s Emergency Operations Center held a news conference Thursday morning. The message: if you’re planning on evacuating, do so now. Go north until you’re out of the path of the hurricane.
Lee County’s Animal Services Director Mack Young says if you have pets, do not leave them behind.
“Make sure they have the proper equipment. Pet supplies, food, water, medication, scoopers, bags to pick up the pet waste, bedding toys,” he says.
Shelters are not open until Friday morning, but when they do open and you bring your pets, make sure they’re vaccinated. Your pet won’t be turned away, but it will help the process.
Also Young says it helps to have your pet microchipped and the microchip registered, in case the animal gets lost.
After the storm, Florida Highway Patrol’s Corporal John Schultz says to be patient and pay attention, especially when it comes to traveling the roadways.
“You’re gonna have intersections with traffic lights in the middle of them. Be aware you’re gonna have law enforcement, firemen out there doing their part. Pay attention when you’re driving," he says.
Lee County advises that emergency vehicles are off the roads when sustained winds are at 40 miles per hour and they advise that you not be on the road at that time either.
The following shelters will be open for evacuees in Lee County at 9 AM Friday:
1. East Lee County High School, 715 Thomas Sherwin Ave., Lehigh Acres
2. Varsity Lakes Middle School, 801 Gunnery Road., Lehigh Acres
3. Harns Marsh Middle School, 1820 Unice Ave. N., Lehigh Acres
4. Oak Hammock Middle School, 5321 Tice St., Fort Myers
5. Island Coast High School, 2125 De Navarra Pkwy., Cape Coral
6. South Ft. Myers High School, 14020 Plantation Road., Fort Myers
7. Estero Rec Center, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Road., Estero
Florida Highway Patrol's Corporal John Schultz said that I-75 is clear in southwest Florida, but congestion begins farther north. He said there's traffic in Sarasota, Tampa and Ocala.
U.S. 27 in Clewiston is bottlenecked for 2 miles due to evacuation traffic. All traffic lights in the city of Clewiston have been set to flashing in order to help the flow of traffic.
Clewiston residents are asked to use surface roads and local roads for travel and to avoid U.S. 27 if possible.
A press release from Lee officials Thursday afternoon said tolls at Lee County’s three bridges – Midpoint, Cape Coral and Sanibel Causeway – are suspended until further notice.