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The Ave Herald

Serving the community of Ave Maria, Florida


UPDATED: Ave Maria Prepares as Irma Bears Down on Florida

Many Ave Maria residents have already departed for points north as powerful Hurricane Irma continues to threaten south Florida. Others are holding off on a decision while a large number of residents say they intend to stay put and ride out the storm.

Forecast models, some of which Tuesday showed the eye of Irma passing almost directly over Ave Maria, shifted to the east but as of Thursday evening, several showed Ave Maria in the path of the storm moving through central Florida.

Collier County has ordered evacuations beginning at 1 p.m. Friday for Everglades City, Goodland and Chokoloskee. 

Collier County commissioners have declared a state of emergency and given the county manager the authority to order evacuations if circumstances warrant such action. The county has extensive information on hurricane preparedness and resources, including shelter locations, on its web site here.  The Collier County Sheriff's Office also has a central page for storm information here. The county has also activated a telephone information hotline that can be reached at 239-252-8444 or by calling 311.

Shelters also will open at 1 p.m. Friday in the following locations:

Immokalee High School, 701 Immokalee Drive, Immokalee, Florida 34142 (no pets)

Immokalee Middle School 401 N. 9th St., Immokalee, Florida 34142 (pets allowed)

Cypress Palm Middle School, 4255 18th Ave. NE, Naples, Florida 34120 (pets allowed)

North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road, Naples, Florida 34109 (pets allowed – please note that due to preregistration, this shelter is full and will not accept anyone who is not already registered)

Gulf Coast High School, 7878 Shark Way, Naples, Florida 34119 (no pets)

Oak Ridge Middle School, 14975 Collier Blvd., Naples, Florida 34119 (no pets)

Lely High School, 1 Lely High School Blvd., Naples, Florida 34113 (no pets)

If bringing a pet to a pet-friendly shelter, owners must bring their vaccination records. Only dogs and cats will be accepted, and they must be kept in an appropriate-size kennel. Owners should bring enough food and water for a minimum of three days as well as, bowls and all supplies including waste bags and litter. When taking pets outside, they must remain leashed, and pet owners are responsible for picking up pet waste. There must be a family member or care taker of the pet present in the shelter at all times.

Ave Maria University has canceled classes for Thursday, Friday and Monday, Donahue Academy for Thursday and Friday, and Collier County Public Schools for Thursday and Friday. Click here for regular updates from Ave Maria University.

AMU has backup power generators and university President Jim Towey said in an advisory Tuesday that the school has made its ballroom available to the Collier County Sheriff's Office if needed to support its operations.

Since Ave Maria is just 10 years old, all residential and commercial buildings were built to high standards for wind resistance and the town's location about 30 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico means there is minimal risk from any potential storm surge. Public safety officials are advising residents who stay to ensure they have supplies of fresh water and to prepare for the possibility of a loss of electrical power for several days.

The National Hurricane Center says that hurricane force winds extend from the center of the storm out about 50 miles, with tropical storm force winds up to 185 miles from the center. If Irma does follow a track at or off the east coast of Florida, then Ave Maria would be spared hurricane force winds.

The only major storm to affect Ave Maria in its history was Tropical Storm Fay, which passed directly over Ave Maria on a meandering path in August, 2008. Damage was minimal, consisting mainly of downed trees, and the stormwater drainage system prevented any significant flooding.

The Publix supermarket in Ave Maria had sold out of water, bread and propane by early Wednesday afternoon. A store representative said they hoped to get further deliveries and planned to stay open at least through Saturday. The store has a generator to keep food from spoiling in the event of a power outage.

Ave Maria Catholic Parish Pastor Fr. Cory Mayer said Wednesday that all Masses are canceled Saturday and Sunday although if conditions permit there might be a 12:30 Mass Sunday and that notice will be published on the parish website. He said that parishioners are dispensed from their Sunday Mass obligation this week and are asked to make "a spiritual communion" if unable to attend Mass. He said he is staying in town for the duration.

Residents turned to social media for advice and tips with offers and requests for help ranging from where gasoline was still available, assistance putting up storm shutters to finding temporary homes for pets from families evacuating.

Although bottled water might be in short supply, residents interested in something stronger to drink may not have a problem finding it. Both the Pub and Grill of Ave Maria and Oil Well Craft Beer say they will be staying open as long as there is electrical power.


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