(Reuters) - As authorities in Florida warn many of those in the potential path of Hurricane Irma to leave their homes, a county sheriff is offering a warm bed to anyone wanted by law enforcement: in the county jail.
“If you go to a shelter for #Irma and you have a warrant, we’ll gladly escort you to the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail,” the Polk County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has warned that Irma could be more devastating than Hurricane Andrew, which hit the state in 1992. Thousands of National Guard troops will be deployed ahead of Irma’s expected arrival at the weekend.
In a series of tweets, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office urged people to prepare for the storm, and said that if they did go to a shelter they would find deputies there checking IDs.
“Sex offenders/predators will not be allowed,” the office tweeted. “We cannot and we will not have innocent children in a shelter with sexual offenders & predators. Period.”
Some Twitter users responded with shock, saying it was inhumane to deny anyone shelter during dangerous conditions.
The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a message seeking more details, but a spokeswoman told the Orlando Sentinel newspaper the ID checks will allow residents to feel the shelters are safe and encourage higher turnout.
“We hope it actually leads to more people turning themselves in,” the spokeswoman, Carrie Horstman, told the paper.
Polk County, between Orlando and Tampa, is home to about 600,000 people. Being landlocked is no protection against hurricanes, the sheriff’s office noted, tweeting the hashtag: #goawayIrma.
Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Steve Orlofsky