Treasure Coast residents, while not in the fiercest path of Hurricane Ian, will experience tropical storm-force gusts and at least 4 inches of rain beginning Wednesday, meteorologists said.
Residents could see tropical-storm-force winds starting Wednesday around 8 p.m., said meteorologist Jessie Smith, with the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Melbourne.
“We also have a tornado threat,” she said.
The chance of tornadoes will remain in the area, she said, until the eye of the storm passes, or, as long as the Treasure Coast is positioned in the storm’s right-front quadrant.
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Those conditions follow a soggy Tuesday during which businesses and government made closure decisions, while residents made their preparations for a storm that didn't prompt a high alert here, but some precaution is warranted.
Emergency management officials urged residents in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties to be vigilant, particularly for water collecting on roadways and possible flooding in low-lying areas.
In the Indian River Estates neighborhood east of U.S. 1 and south of Fort Pierce, water was collecting in some of the drainage swales. Portions of the neighborhood in the past have been prone to flooding.
That meant some residents were loading up on sandbags Tuesday.
"I'm just being precautious and making sure my house is protected," said Billy Bryte of Port St. Lucie, who filled some bags at Dreamland Park in Fort Pierce, one of two areas open to St. Lucie County residents to fill bags with sand. Sand bags help prevent or reduce flood water damage and can act as a barrier to divert moving water around, instead of through, buildings.
Tropical storm conditions with 50 to 60 mph wind gusts and the potential for 4 to 8 inches of rain are expected for the Treasure Coast. The wind strength is on the higher end of the range for tropical-storm-force winds, which is 39 to 73 mph.
The Florida Department of Transportation in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard began locking down drawbridges to marine navigation Tuesday in Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties. The bridges will remain open to vehicular traffic.
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All Treasure Coast county schools, as well as Indian River State College, will be closed Wednesday and Thursday.
One storm preparation tip is to keep your vehicles with at least a half tank of gas in case of shortages or lack of power at gas stations. But there didn't appear to be a rush for gas Tuesday. Gas stations around the region had a few cars filling up.
For many newer Treasure Coast residents, Ian poses the first time they're preparing for a major storm. In Port St. Lucie about noon Tuesday, the parking lot of the Walmart Supercenter on South U.S. 1 at Southeast Lennard Road was largely full under gray skies and a steady, light, rain.
Janet Goodrich, who said she just moved here from Maine, said she bought some cleaning supplies as she is moving into a new home.
“I've got chips and water and all that stuff,” Goodrich said.
Goodrich, who declined to give her age but said she is of age to retire, didn’t think the storm would be a big deal.
“My son and daughter-in-law say no, and they've been here for seven years,” she said.
Still, Goodrich said inside it appeared some items were missing from the shelves.
“There’s a lot of people that are getting prepared,” she said.
Lamaur Stancil is the Treasure Coast regional economy reporter covering business and industries, including retail, tourism and hospitality. Contact him at 321-987-7179 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him at Lamaur Stancil on Facebook and @TCPalmLStancil on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Ian to bring half foot of rain, strong winds to Treasure Coast