NASHVILLE -- Working with local Tennessee partners, the American Red Cross on Sunday opened shelters at five sites across the state, including one at a Chattanooga church, to provide emergency accommodations to evacuees fleeing Hurricane Irma's wrath, state officials say.
It's one of a number of steps Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) officials and cooperating state agencies are taking to assist residents fleeing the hurricane, which made landfall earlier Sunday in Florida as a Category 4 event.
State Tourism Department officials, meanwhile, are encouraging evacuees to stop by Tennessee Welcome Centers for a list of available hotel and motel accommodations.
The information is constantly being updated.
Irma is expected to reach Fort Meyers, Fla. Sunday night and move into north Florida Monday morning.
The current path has its arrival in West Tennessee near Jackson late Tuesday or early Wednesday, according to a TEMA news release.
Flash Flood Watch
Tennessee forecasters expect Irma will be a tropical depression by the time it reaches here with wind gusts up to 55 mph in some areas and dumping from 1 to 3 inches of rain, TEMA says.
Main threats in Tennessee will be high winds downing trees and power lines, causing scattered power outages and heavy rain resulting in localized, minor flooding.
TEMA's State Emergency Operations Center in Nashville has been moved to Elevated status with the SEOC staffed with personnel from several state departments.
State officials are monitoring Irma's movement toward the Volunteer State and officials say they stand ready to assist local jurisdictions with any life-saving measures or need requests.
Evacuees can locate a shelter by visiting redcross.org or by downloading the free Red Cross Emergency App. The emergency app also provides real time information about the storm and hurricane safety tips.
Several of the Tennessee shelters set up cater to evacuees with special health needs or who are accompanied by pets.
In Chattanooga, East Brainerd Church of Christ has been designated as a Special Needs Shelter for evacuees with health issues. The church, located at 7745 East Brainerd Road, has a capacity for 200 people but 169 spaces are currently available.
Other shelters by region are:
* Northeast Tennessee: University Parkway Baptist Church, 219 University Parkway, Johnson City. Capacity: 75. Availability: 73
* Middle Tennessee: Christ Lutheran Church, 229 Haywood Lane, in Nashville. Capacity: 20. Availability: 20. Pet Friendly Shelter.
- First Lutheran Church, 118 8th Ave. South, Nashville. Capacity: 20. Availability: 20. Pet Friendly Shelter.
* Southwest Tennessee: Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, 70 N. Bellevue Blvd., Memphis. Capacity: 200. Available: 97.
The American Red Cross, meanwhile, encourages anyone coming to an emergency shelter to bring personal items for each member of their family. The list includes: prescription and emergency medication, extra clothes, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies and important documents.
TEMA officials, meanwhile, emphasize these key points for Tennesseans:
- Stay informed about local forecasts and check road information. Be ready if local authorities issue warnings or emergency actions in their area.
- Monitor local news and weather broadcasts for current weather and traffic information, and have multiple ways to receive weather info and warnings, such as NOAA weather radio.
- Tennesseans also can download any number of weather smartphone apps to get weather information, including watch and warning notifications direct to mobile devices.
- Do not drive or walk through high water. TEMA's message is: "Turn Around, Don't Drown."