Tampa Bay shelters are opening as Idalia evacuations begin. What to expect.

Ivy Ceballo/Tampa Bay Times/TNS

Hundreds of thousands of people in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties have been ordered to evacuate low-lying and coastal areas as Tropical Storm Idalia makes its way toward Florida’s west coast.

With most hotels booked, folks with nowhere else to stay could land in the shelters provided at public schools throughout the region. While the accommodations are safe, they are anything but hotel life.

Even before officially opening its shelters, Pasco County cautioned anyone coming to any of its six sites not to expect breakfast Tuesday morning.

“Those who plan on using our shelters are asked to bring their water and snacks,” the school district said in its announcement.

That’s not all you need to know if you turn to the public shelters for safety from the storm. Some tips:

Shelters supply space, but little else

In announcing its evacuation order, Hillsborough County told affected residents to gather their family members and pets, critical items including important papers and essential medications, lock the door and go.

It encouraged people to stay with friends and family outside the evacuation area if possible. It called shelters a “last resort.”

That’s because the shelters don’t offer many creature comforts, as Pinellas County notes. They don’t have beds, except for medically needy patients at special needs locations. People stay in classrooms, gyms and cafeterias, often in barracks-style living.

If you’re staying there, emergency management officials recommend bringing bedding, several days’ worth of clothing, special dietary items, plenty of water and more. Ear plugs are popular if you need to drown out the noise. Battery-powered fans and radios are popular to keep air circulating and news flowing.

Pets are welcome, but you’ll be separated

In past storms, several residents refused to leave their homes because they didn’t want to abandon their pets. Counties responded by arranging to increase the number of shelters that accept pets, to encourage more people to get to safety.

“Don’t leave your pet and don’t use your pet as an excuse not to evacuate,” Pasco County advised residents. “You are putting yourself, your family, and your pet at risk!”

But it’s not like having your dog at the foot of your bed.

Pets generally stay in separate sections of the shelters, in carriers or cages that you are expected to provide. You’re also expected to bring food, water and medication for your pets — not to mention supplies to clean up after them. You might also be asked to prove your pets have gotten all their vaccinations.

This is not a hurricane party

When you stay in a shelter, you will not know everyone around you. Officials ask that you respect the privacy of others as much as possible.

They also ask for decent behavior.

That means, among other things, no alcohol, illegal drugs or weapons, Hillsborough County states.

Shelters do attempt to provide basic meals to shelter dwellers. It’s nothing fancy, though. So if you have something special you prefer, they recommend you bring it with you, but remember there won’t likely be any refrigeration available.

Where can I go?

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY is opening eight shelters at 4 p.m. Monday. They are:

Lockhart Elementary Magnet School, 3719 N 17th St., Tampa

Middleton High School, 4801 N 22nd St., Tampa, (Pet-friendly)

Newsome High School, 16550 Fishhawk Blvd., Lithia

Pizzo Elementary, 11701 USF Bull Run, Tampa

Reddick Elementary, 325 W Lake Drive, Wimauma

Shields Middle School, 15732 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin (Pet-friendly)

Steinbrenner High School, 5575 W Lutz Lake Fern Road, Lutz (Pet-friendly)

Sgt. Paul R. Smith Middle School, 14303 Citrus Pointe Drive, Tampa

PINELLAS COUNTY is opening a special needs shelter at 7 p.m. Monday at John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St. S., St. Petersburg. Nine other shelters will open at 7 a.m. Tuesday:

Campbell Park Elementary School, 1051 Seventh Ave. S, St. Petersburg

Carwise Middle School, 3301 Bentley Drive, Palm Harbor

Dunedin Middle School (special needs), 70 Patricia Ave., Dunedin

Gibbs High School (pets), 850 34th St. S, St. Petersburg

Largo High School, 410 Missouri Ave., Largo (pets)

Lealman Innovation Academy, 4900 28th St. N, Lealman

New Heights Elementary School, 3901 37th St. N, St. Petersburg

Palm Harbor Middle School, 1800 Tampa Road, Palm Harbor

Palm Harbor University High School, 1900 Omaha St., Palm Harbor (special needs and pets)

For more information on Pinellas shelters, including a list of recommended items to bring, visit pinellas.gov/emergency-information.

PASCO COUNTY will open six shelters at 8 a.m. Tuesday. All allow pets. They are:

Centennial Middle School, 38505 Centennial Road, Dade City

Sunlake High School, 3023 Sunlake Blvd., Land O’ Lakes

Fivay High School, 12115 Chicago Ave., Hudson

River Ridge Middle and High Schools, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey

Wiregrass Ranch High School, 2909 Mansfield Blvd., (special needs and general population), Wesley Chapel

Fasano Regional Hurricane Center, (special needs and general population),11611 Denton Ave., Hudson

HERNANDO COUNTY opened four shelters at noon Monday. They are:

West Hernando Middle (for those with special medical needs), 14325 Ken Austin Parkway, Brooksville

D.S. Parrott Middle (general population and those with pets), 19220 Youth Drive, Brooksville

Nature Coast Technical High (general population) 4057 California St., Brooksville

Hernando High (general population), 700 Bell Ave., Brooksville

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