As Hurricane Idalia approached the Florida coast on Tuesday, shelters and sandbag sites in Marion County were up and running. West Marion was under a hurricane warning, and east/central Marion was under a tropical storm warning.
Though no one had showed up at Lake Weir High School at 8 a.m. Tuesday, staff was busy preparing the shelter for those seeking a place to stay.
The school is one of the shelters set up for evacuees with pets. Officials there said they had approximately 470 crates — 270 for dogs and 200 for cats — in place. The area where the animals would be located had tarps on the ground.
Forest High School shelter
Shortly before 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Forest High School had two people checked in at the shelter. Both declined to be interviewed.
Vanguard High School shelter
Marianne Coller, a Fort McCoy resident who lives in a mobile home surrounded by trees and a lake, was among those who sheltered at Vanguard High School.
"Me being a nervous wreck and my dog don't like storms, I decided to come to a shelter," said Coller, sitting on a blanket inside the Vanguard cafeteria.
A property manager, Coller said whenever there's bad weather, the lights go out.
"Its been a blessing," she said about the shelter. Coller is at the shelter with her dog, Miss Bella.
Last year, Debra Johnson was at a shelter during a storm. Johnson said her residence has tall, skinny trees in the back and she's afraid one or more will fall on her home.
"I don't want to stay home and be scared of the winds," Johnson said.
Not far from Johnson was Brent Scherle; his wife, Latrisha; and their two sons, ages 13 and 18.
Brent Scherle said this was his first visit to a shelter. He said he doesn't feel comfortable at his Ocala home and decided he and his family would be better off at Vanguard.
"This is more of a sturdy place," he said.
The shelter at Vanguard can accommodate more than 2,000 people in four buildings, officials said. By 10 a.m. Tuesday, the shelter had nine people registered and one dog. Last year, officials said they housed more than 100 dogs during a storm.
Shelter at West Port High School
At West Port High School, which hosts a special-needs shelter, there were 11 people registered as of 10:55 a.m. The shelter is capable of hosting nearly 600 people, officials said. Overflow goes to Liberty Middle School.
Those will special needs can bring a caregiver. The shelter is equipped with oxygen for those who need it. The local Department of Health takes care of special-needs shelters.
David Harmon of Ocala said he lives in a trailer and wants "to play it safe" and go to a shelter.
Dunnellon sandbag site
In Dunnellon — a part of the county under a hurricane warning — almost two dozen people were at the sandbag site on Bostick Street on Tuesday.
Coming from south Florida two months ago, Edna Ramirez said she's familiar with hurricanes and therefore wanted to get sandbags as a precaution.
"We don't know how it's going to affect us," the Rainbow Lakes resident said.
Idalia live updates on Tuesday:Citizen information line, sandbags and more
James Smith of Dunnellon said he was filling sandbags for his sister-in-law, who also lives in Dunnellon. He said the bags are going to placed by a side door to prevent water from entering the residence.
An official at the site said each person is allowed 10 bags. On Monday, he said, about 1,500 bags were filled. By noon Tuesday, an estimated 2,500 bags had already been filled.
Contact Austin L. Miller at email@example.com or @almillerosb