Florida’s Tampa Bay and Southwest Brace for Hurricane Ian

“During Irma, we staffed the school and had close to 4,000 people and 2,000 animals,” she said, referring to the 2017 storm. “We have no way of knowing how many people are coming.”

Harbor Cove, a large community of manufactured homes and canals along the Myakka River west of North Port, was under mandatory evacuation orders and pretty much a ghost town on Tuesday. One resident who remained, Jim Belanger, was only there to finish packing before heading to a shelter for a couple of days.

In Largo, between Clearwater and St. Petersburg, Nancy Chulla, 72, prepared to leave her 1963 mobile home in Coquina Cove Residence RV Park. But first, she had an important task.

Her husband, Bob, 80, died of cancer in May. She took the box with his cremated remains, sat at the end of her dock as the mullet jumped and tipped his ashes into the water. She had planned to do so on Oct. 15, his birthday, but worried that her home might not survive the storm.

“It was what he had wanted,” she said.

“People say, ‘Are you sure you want to go back?’” she said of living on such a vulnerable patch of land. Her answer is always yes: “I have my own beach. I don’t want to give it up.”

Patricia Mazzei reported from Tampa, Fla., Charles Ballaro from North Port, Fla., and Elisabeth Parker from Largo, Fla. Reporting was contributed by Camila Acosta from Havana, Mike Ives from Hong Kong, Frances Robles from Key West, Fla., and Jenny Gross, Christine Hauser, and April Rubin from New York.

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