TAMPA, Fla. - Florida is suspending tolls in several areas along the Gulf coast until further notice as local officials begin issuing evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Ian.
The toll roads where drivers will not have to pay include Polk Parkway, Pinellas Bayway, Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Selmon Expressway, and the Interstate 4 connector.
Outside the Tampa Bay area, tolls will be suspended at the Midway Bridge and Spence Parkway in Okaloosa County, Garcon Point Bridge in Santa Rosa County, and Alligator Alley.
"For all you new Floridians, who have not been through this before, do not panic," Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a Monday morning briefing. "Listen to your local officials."
The governor said as state officials monitor Ian's approach to Florida, additional toll roads may be suspended.
Florida residents were getting ready, lining up for hours in Tampa to collect bags of sand and clearing store shelves of bottled water. As many as 300,000 people may be evacuated from low-lying areas in Hillsborough County alone, county administrator Bonnie Wise said at a news conference Monday on preparations.
Some of those evacuations were beginning Monday afternoon in the most vulnerable areas, with schools and other locations opening as shelters. "We must do everything we can to protect our residents. Time is of the essence," Wise said.
DeSantis has declared a state of emergency throughout Florida and urged residents to prepare for the storm to lash large swaths of the state with heavy rains, high winds and rising seas.