Naples and other cities in Southwest Florida issue evacuations

The western push of Hurricane Irma has Naples and other cities in Southwest Florida bracing for a possible Category 5 storm, as officials scrambled to open more shelters and expand mandatory evacuation zones.

Collier County’s Emergency Operation Center was activated at 8 a.m. Friday, and has been staffed around the clock. Meanwhile, Collier County Sheriff’s deputies were going door-to-door in flood-prone areas, urging people to leave.

“We’ve been preparing for the potential of a Category 5 storm since Tuesday. We’ve put extra patrols on the streets and are also preparing for the possibility of looting,” Collier Sheriff’s spokeswoman Michelle Batten said Saturday morning.

Mandatory evacuations have been issued for Everglades City, Goodland, Chokoloskee, Marco Island and areas south and west of U.S. 41, she said.

Eleven of the county’s 17 shelters are full, according to officials, who are making preparations to open additional facilities.

The storm surge in Southwest Florida is likely to flood coastal areas six to 12 feet, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Gasoline is still available, officials say, but demand is high.

“The roads are pretty clear. It appears that most people are either sheltered or have left,” Batten said.

Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said his office has been coordinating with other sheriffs in Southwest Florida.

“The Collier County Sheriff’s Office and most law enforcement, fire-rescue and public safety agencies have begun executing a hurricane plan based on a Category 5 hurricane impacting Collier County,” he said at an afternoon news conference at the Emergency Operations Center.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.