The Rays expect to know Saturday where they are headed after Sunday's game in Boston, as Hurricane Irma may force rescheduling or relocation of a series with the Yankees slated to start Monday night at Tropicana Field.
The most likely options, probably in order, are pushing the series opener back to Tuesday and then playing a doubleheader Wednesday at the Trop, playing the games at a neutral site (Baltimore appears the best choice), or playing in New York.
"We are monitoring the storm carefully and are in regular communication with MLB regarding our options,'' team president Brian Auld said Thursday afternoon. "Right now, our focus is on safety first and foremost.''
Registered sex offenders who need to evacuate because of Hurricane Irma now have an option: The Pasco County Sheriff's Office will set up a space for them in the shelter at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel.
With a mandatory evacuation in place for those living in low-lying areas and mobile homes in Pinellas County, buses are being provided to transport the homeless to emergency shelters for free.
Evacuees will be picked up at six sites: St. Vincent de Paul, 1345 Park St. in Clearwater; Salvation Army, 1400 Fourth St. S, St. Petersburg; Solid Rock Church, 4224 28th St. N, St. Petersburg; St. Vincent Paul, 384 15th St. N, St. Petersburg; and St. Timothy Lutheran Church, 812 E Tarpon Ave., and The Shepherd Center, 304 S. Pinellas Ave. in Tarpon Springs.
Evacuees are encouraged to bring a sleeping bag, a pillow, blankets, medications, a change of clothes, toiletries and important phone numbers.
In an interview Thursday afternoon, Kathleen Fox, FEMA’s Acting Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness, told Florida residents to listen to authorities as they brace for Hurricane Irma.
“Following the advice of your local officials could save your life,” Fox said.
Fox said Irma and Hurricane Harvey, which pummeled the east coast of Texas last month, underscored the need for every American to be prepared for the worst in a disaster scenario.
In addition to preparing for a disaster they could be confronted with, Fox urged citizens — particularly Floridians — to help neighbors in the wake of a potential disaster.
“Gov. [Rick] Scott has said that the State of Florida needs up to 17,000 volunteers and as of about 12:30 this afternoon, they were approaching 7,000 volunteers,” Fox said. “The need is going to be great across the state and really across the eastern seaboard, so if you’re able to volunteer in any way, this is the time to do it.”
The deputy steered away from politics in the interview, saying her office was more concerned with Irma preparation than anything else. When asked what she thought of the relief package approved by the U.S. Senate today, Fox said, “The administration worked with Congress to make sure that we had the resources that we need. We at FEMA are worried about life sustaining, life saving operations.”
Due to the statewide threat of Hurricane Irma, and the very real possibility USF's charter flight home would've been grounded, the Bulls' game Saturday at Connecticut has been called off.
The contest — an American Athletic Conference opener for both teams — almost certainly won't be made up. The teams don't share a common open date.
"As I noted in my comments (Wednesday), the safety and well-being of our students, staff and coaches is our paramount concern,” USF athletic director Mark Harlan said in a news release.
"Several large areas of the state are under evacuation orders, including portions of the Tampa Bay area. After consultation with university leadership and outside agencies, I believe it is not appropriate for our team to travel at this time."
Pasco County officials issued a voluntary evacuation order for all areas west of U.S. 19 and for the occupants of more than 64,000 mobile or manufactured homes across the county because of the threat of high winds and flooding from Hurricane Irma.
The county also said special needs residents and anyone living in a low-lying or flood-prone areas should evacuate. Each of the past two summers, residents living along the Anclote River east of U.S. 19 have had to evacuate flood waters.
To accommodate evacuees from Pasco and elsewhere around the state, the county is opening 12,000 shelter beds at five high schools and the Mike Fasano Hurricane Shelter at 11 a.m. Friday.
They schools are: Fivay High School, 12115 Chicago Ave.; Hudson; River Ridge Middle/High School, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey; Sunlake High School, 3023 Sunlake Blvd., Land O Lakes; Wesley Chapel High School, 30651 Wells Road., Wesley Chapel and Wiregrass Ranch High School, 2909 Mansfield Blvd., Wesley Chapel. The Wiregrass Ranch shelter is pet-friendly.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma is "pummeling" the Turks and Caicos islands.
Forecasters say the Category 5 hurricane has top sustained winds of 175 mph (280 kph) and is expected to remain powerful for the next couple of days.
As of 8 p.m., Irma was located about 55 miles west-southwest of Grand Turk Island and 90 miles east of Great Inagua Island. The hurricane is moving toward the west-northwest at 16 mph.
The eye of the hurricane should continue to move near the Turks and Caicos Islands and toward the southeastern Bahamas this evening. The core will then move between the north coast of Cuba and the Bahamas during the next day or two.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles (110 km) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles (295 km).
A hurricane watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita
Beach, the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay and the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas and Matanzas. A storm surge watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach and the Florida Keys.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott was briefed about Hurricane Irma's potential impact on the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee and has ordered the cities south of the lake to begin mandatory evacuations Friday morning.
A news release from the governor's office said the U.S. Army Corps assured Scott that the structural integrity of the dike will not be compromised. However, excessive wind from Irma could push some water over the dike.
Mandatory evacuations will be put in place beginning Friday morning for the cities surrounding the southern half of Lake Okeechobee from Lake Port to Canal Point in Hendry, Palm Beach and Glades counties.
The seven cities affected by these orders are:
In a prepared statement, Scott said, “Today, I am directing the closure of all public schools, state colleges, state universities and state offices for their normal activities effective Friday through Monday, to ensure we have every space available for sheltering and staging. Floridians are facing a life-threatening storm in Hurricane Irma, and every family must prepare to evacuate. Our state’s public schools serve a vital role in our communities as shelters for displaced residents and staging areas for hurricane recovery efforts. Closing public schools, state colleges, state universities and state offices will provide local and state emergency officials the flexibility necessary to support shelter and emergency response efforts.”
A hurricane warning has been issued from Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach, as well as for the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, and Florida Bay.
A hurricane watch has been issued for the east coast of Florida north of Jupiter Inlet to Sebastian Inlet and for the west coast of Florida north of Bonita Beach to Anna Maria Island.
A storm surge warning has been issued from Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach, as well as for the Florida Keys.
At 11 p.m. Hurricane Irma was about 585 miles east-southeast of Miami with maximum sustained winds of 165 mph. The storm is moving to the west-northwest at 16 mph.
A turn toward the northwest is expected by late Saturday. A slight shift west in the forecast models means much of the Florida peninsula could be impacted by the storm, forecasters say.
The National Hurricane Center says severe hurricane conditions are expected over portions of the Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys beginning late Saturday. Irma could make landfall in southern Florida as a dangerous major hurricane, and bring life-threatening storm surge and wind impacts to much of the state.