STUART, Fla. — As Hurricane Dorian churns closer to Martin County, mandatory evacuation orders were issued at 1 p.m. Sunday for people living on barrier islands, inside manufactured homes or within low lying areas.
Martin County Sheriff’s deputies spent the afternoon going door to door to warn families families and urge them to find a safer place to be during the storm.
WPTV followed deputy Rhyss Heeter who made sure everyone understands the dangers of staying in place within the mandatory evacuation zones.
“We’re urging people to find a different location,” he said. “Our number one concern is their safety.”
He’s worked on an emergency response team for the past several years, working the aftermath of storms like Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys and Hurricane Michael in the Florida panhandle.
“I’ve seen some of the damage these types of storms can produce. And it’s bad,” he said.
Heeter checked on homes in Hanson Landing Condos, which sits directly on a body of water connected to the ocean.
“This ones got me awake,” said Bob Woods, a condo resident who has been through every hurricane in Florida since the early 2000s.
He’s said he’s on the fence about leaving for Dorian, but his friends are getting out of the way.
“5 o’ clock in the morning, we’ll know whether it’s gonna make it’s turn. I’ll stay if it turns,” he said.
His friends are making plans to get out of dodge.
“Trying to do all the right things and help people find solutions to keep them safe,” said Ed Shoemaker.
Others like Arnie Gunderson are leaving first thing Monday. He’s evacuating further south to Sunrise.
“Why would I endanger my dog and for all the people around the country that are my friends and relatives, that’s an important thing — to let them know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said.
We met others who said they are going to stay.
“I lived through one, I guess I’ll live through another,” said Candace Woodruff.
Sheriff’s deputies said they can’t physically force people to leave but they’re hoping people take this storm seriously enough.
“If there’s 180 mph winds, flooded roads and trees down and power poles down — and you dial 911 — we might no be able to get to you,” he said. “It’s nerve-wracking for us. We want to do the best job that we can and we want to protect people.”
There are five shelters across the county total:
- Port Salerno Elementary School, 3260 SE Lionel Terrace, Stuart
- Jensen Beach High School, 2875 NW Goldenrod Road, Jensen Beach
- Hidden Oaks Middle School, 2801 SW Martin Highway, Palm City
- Warfield Elementary School, 15260 SW 150th Street, Indiantown
A special needs shelter for Martin County will open on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Anderson Middle School, located at 7000 SE Atlantic Ridge Drive in Stuart.
This shelter includes limited medical oversight and is designed for residents with electricity-dependent needs such as oxygen.
A pet-friendly shelter will be available for residents and their dogs and/or cats at Willoughby Learning Center, located at 5150 SE Willoughby Boulevard in Stuart. It will open on Sunday at 1 p.m. and will accommodate up to 300 residents and their pets.
Residents will be separated from pets but can visit to care for them. Please note: if the pet-friendly shelter experiences a loss of power, there will not be any air conditioning.
The Martin County Sheriff’s Office said deputies will be out again in mandatory evacuation zones knocking on doors Monday.