Hurricane Irma: Collier County declares emergency, gives manager power to order evacuation

The Whole Foods in Mercato in North Naples was almost all out of water on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. An employee said they expect another shipment of water .

Collier County commissioners declared a state of emergency Wednesday ahead of Hurricane Irma and gave County Manager Leo Ochs power to order an evacuation should the need arise.

The county will open its Emergency Operation Center Thursday, where Ochs, first responders and emergency directors will monitor the storm and decide whether to order evacuations.

The county has also opened its information hotline. Call 239-252-8444 to receive updated information. 

Part of the problem with this storm is its slow trek north, said Dan Summers, director of the emergency services bureau. 

More:Hurricane Irma: Closings and event cancellations in Naples and Southwest Florida

"The last thing we want to do is shelter too early," Summers said.

Based on the current projections, which can change by the hour, the county will have to make an evacuation decision by Friday or Saturday, Summers said.

Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, again, urged all residents who can leave the county to do so voluntarily.

The county will open nine hurricane shelters over the coming days. The locations and opening times of each shelter still have to be determined and will be released as soon as staff is in place.

The problem in releasing the locations too early is that people start to show up before staff and volunteers are ready for them, Summers said.

Nobody seeking shelter will be asked for their immigration status, Rambosk said.

Residents will have to provide name and address to be checked against a convicted sex offender list, he said. Convicted sex offenders will be barred from shelters with the general public but will be provided a shelter, Rambosk said.

More:It's too late to get flood insurance for Hurricane Irma

Even if the storm continues to track east, water surges and floods are expected to damage Collier County, with Chokoloskee and Everglades City bearing the brunt of it.

Storm surges in the Chokoloskee area could reach as high as 20 feet, Summers said.

Everglades City, which has a sewage plant that has suffered with mechanical and maintenance problems for years, has no working generator for the plant.

City officials have asked the county to spare a generator for the plant.

If evacuations are ordered, the county no longer issues buttons for residents to return. They will instead have to show two forms of identification.

Watch a Facebook Live from the meeting: