As Lakeland residents spend the weekend preparing for the possibility of Tropical Storm Ian strengthening to a hurricane and striking Florida’s west coast next week, Polk County announced it will start distributing sandbags on Sunday. The county also announced that Circle B Bar Reserve and other environmental lands will be closed starting Monday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all 67 Florida counties this afternoon. His executive order said “timely precautions” are needed since “there is a continuing risk of dangerous storm surge, heavy rainfall, flash flooding, strong winds, hazardous seas, and isolated tornadic activity for Florida’s Peninsula and portions of the Florida Big Bend, North Florida, and Northeast Florida.”

DeSantis on Friday had declared a state emergency for 24 counties, including Polk. His executive order places National Guard troops on standby, and the governor has asked for federal support in the event of a hurricane.

Polk County’s Emergency Operations Center has released a list of seven sandbag distribution sites at county road maintenance locations. The closest to Lakeland are:

Starting Sunday, they will be open 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily “until weather conditions make it unsafe to be outside.” Check a list of all seven sites.

“A maximum of 10 sandbags will be provided to each household to help prevent water intrusion into the home,” the county said in a news release. Sand will be available at the sites for residents to fill the bags.

The county also announced the closure of environmental lands and stormwater treatment wetlands starting Monday and lasting “until further notice.”

Check a Hurricane Preparedness Guide and Disaster Preparedness Guide from the Polk County Emergency Operations Center

The sites include Circle B Bar Reserve, Crooked Lake Prairie, Crooked Lake Sandhill, Gator Creek Reserve, Hickory Lake Scrub, Lakeland Highlands Scrub, Marshall Hampton Reserve, North Walk-in-Water Creek, Peace River Hammock, Sherwood L. Stokes Preserve, Alafia Reserve and SUMICA.

The projected track of Ian has shifted slightly northward today. The National Hurricane Center’s 2 p.m. update placed the cone of the probably path over nearly the entire state, with the center showing a possible impact north of Tampa on Thursday morning.

South Florida could see heavy rain and flash flooding as early as Monday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

In Lakeland, the NOAA Hurricane Hunters based at Lakeland Linder International Airport are preparing heavier use of drones than in the past to monitor Ian, News Channel 8 reported/u.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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