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Emergency shelters open across Tampa Bay region

Hillsborough County opened all 43 available shelters across the county, including those for special medical needs and pets.

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay area shelters are open for those needing a place to go. 

In Hillsborough County, all 43 available area shelters are now welcoming people through their doors.

"Life at the shelter is not glamorous," said Shelter Manager Carlos Mercado, who runs the site at Erwin Technical College.  

Mercado said an emergency shelter is like a lifeboat. 

"This is the last resort. We want to encourage anyone to explore any other means to stay away from the path of danger before they decide that this is the only option that they have," he said.

Erwin Technical College is one of Hillsborough County's three special needs shelters. It will serve people who need special medical attention or who rely on medical devices that need electricity.

The site is staffed with nurses, but not as many as in years past. For that reason, caregivers are also welcome there.

"We are prepared," said Mercado. "We've been doing this for a while and every year we do training to ensure that our staff is prepared. Things don't always go as planned but we are quick to adapt and overcome so we are prepared."

Most Hillsborough County evacuation centers will not have cots, blankets or food provided.

You're encouraged to bring water, food, bedding, medications, sanitation and personal hygiene items. 

Also bring a form of identification, although you won't necessarily have to prove you live in an evacuation zone in order to be accepted at the shelter. 

Some things you won't be allowed to bring: alcoholic beverages, illegal drugs and weapons of any kind.

Also, not all shelters allow you to bring pets. 

To find a shelter near you in Hillsborough County, click here.

To find a shelter near you in Pinellas Couty, click here.

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