UPDATE: Manatee County lost power at about 2 EST. Hurricane Irma still not reached full force in Sarasota yet.
* * *
A brother and sister originally from Orchard have evacuated their homes on the gulf coast of Florida as Hurricane Irma bears down on the area.
Jason Schwager and Sheila (Rowe) Schwager and their families evacuated the Sarasota area (on the coast between Tampa and Fort Myers) Saturday morning after Irma, a Category 4 hurricane, shifted west and hit land on the gulf region.
Both are graduates of Orchard Public School. Their parents, Sam and Barb Schwager, still live in Orchard.
Rowe told the Antelope County News that the two families are safely together with their combined seven children in a hotel in Orlando. Rowe, a respiratory therapist, remains on maternity leave, otherwise she would be at the hospital with patients riding out the hurricane.
"It is scary in a hotel room with 5 kids not knowing what you'll come home to if anything. I'm thankful I'm still on maternity leave or I'd be at the hospital working," she said "It's real when you see the bridge by your house or streets near your home are on the Weather Channel and CNN."
As of this posting, Manatee County - where the Schwager and Rowe family live - is expecting a storm surge up to 8 feet and rainfall of 15 inches. There is a 24-hour curfew and Level A Mandatory Evacuation.
Emergency responders were taken off the roads at 1 pm EST.
Rowe said she's uncertain what they will find when they return to their homes.
The Antelope County News will continue to follow the Schwager and Rowe family through the hurricane and provide updates. Those wanting to help the family now or following the hurricane can contact the Antelope County News.