Pinellas beach area off limits for some as final preps made before Hurricane Irma

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – If you don’t belong in the beach towns of Pinellas County, stay away from the area. 

That’s the message going out Friday in the coastal evacuation zone.

Officers are checking for permits at several locations. If you don’t have one, be prepared to explain why you need access.

On Clearwater Beach and nearby, last minute preparations are underway before Irma’s winds make tasks like sawing plywood impossible.

“I’m born and raised here. This is [by] far the scariest hurricane we’ve ever seen,” said Lindita Whaley.

Whaley and her family are boarding up, packing up memorabilia and going to live with friends and family.

Her husband cut plywood panels to cover their windows.

“We’re hoping we have something to come home to ’cause it’s a little nerve wracking. This is a little scary,” said Whaley.

One of her neighbors has the same idea. He’s hoping his waterfront condo is dry once Irma clears out.

“Right now we’re looking good, but obviously every time you guys do an update, it moves a little bit to the west, so I just want to be prepared and not doing it last minute,” said Brian Mahardy.

Clearwater police and Pinellas County deputies are screening people wanting to get to barrier island communities.

Those with the proper emergency access permits breeze through.

Others will face questions.

“We want to prevent anybody from looting or burglarizing any of the buildings or residents, so we have a heavy police presence out there,” said Lt. Anthony Monte.

St. Petersburg Fire Rescue is working to move all special needs residents to a safe shelter. They are using Pinellas County school buses and city vans to make it happen.

For some, the move is traumatic.

“We’re gonna make it. We’re gonna make through this. Don’t cry,” said a firefighter-paramedic, as he loaded a woman in wheelchair onto a bus.

People allowed to the beach include residents, business owners, employees, and contractors, like those helping to shore up property.

You will be asked to prove your intentions.

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