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Tampa Bay Area Preparing For More Hurricane Evacuees

Julio Ildefonso, left, and his mother Mariana Vazquez, right, sit in the living room of their new home in Tampa. Vazquez passed away in January, leaving Ildefonso alone in Florida. He's considering whether or not to move back to Puerto Rico.
Roberto Roldan
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

As Hurricane Dorian barreled toward Puerto Rico on Wednesday, some in the Tampa Bay area with family and friends on the island were staying alert.

Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which hit in 2017. Florida emergency officials said nearly 300,000 evacuees relocated to the state as a result of the destruction -- almost a third of them living in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Citrus and Hernando counties.

Julio Ildefonso moved to Hillsborough County from the island after the storm.

He said the recent tropical activity near Puerto Rico is concerning.

"If it does hit 'em through the center, like we hope and pray not, it could be another disaster," said Ildefonso. “We're thinking of another miracle so it won’t get hit again."

He spoke with his loved ones still living in Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

“Right now the feeling is a little bit of scaredness, but a lot of awareness. Everybody is getting prepared now this time,” said Ildefonso.

He's preparing too by gathering important papers, and he already has a bag packed, in case he needs to evacuate from his Tampa home.

Melissa Brass is the Disaster Services Coordinator for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. The organization helped hundreds of Puerto Ricans, like Ildefonso, transition into the Tampa Bay area after Maria. She is also hearing from her clients worried about Dorian.

“I've had several who told me they are nervous because they still have family staying there and then I've had several who started reaching out to me early in the week. You can just tell they start getting nervous anytime they start receiving storm updates,” she said.

She makes sure the new Floridians know their evacuation zones during hurricane season, and she said the organization is preparing for the possibility of more evacuees.

"We are very nervous about anything hitting the island of Puerto Rico, and the people that are still there, or the people who went back and started to rebuild and what that may look like for them, and the possibility that if there's too much damage we may have another influx of evacuees," she said.

Copyright 2019 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Jessica Meszaros is a reporter and host of All Things Consideredfor WGCU News.
Jessica Meszaros
Jessica Meszaros is a reporter and host of Morning Edition at WUSF Public Media.