Saturday morning, Florida Governor Rick Scott Saturday had a warning for his state’s residents sitting in the path of Hurricane Irma: “Once the storm starts, law enforcement cannot save you.”
“If you’ve been ordered to evacuate, you need to leave now,” the governor said Saturday, just before 10 a.m. “Do not wait. Evacuate. Not tonight, not in an hour. You need to go right now. If you are in an evacuation zone, leave.”
According to the National Hurricane Center, the eye of powerful Hurricane Irma is expected to hit southwest Florida and Tampa sometime Sunday, but the entire state will feel the storm’s effects.
Hurricane Center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said Saturday that while Miami won’t get the core of Irma it will still get life-threatening hurricane conditions.
Forecasters adjusted the storm’s potential track more toward the west coast of Florida Friday evening.
The Category 4 storm pounded Cuba early Saturday with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph). According to an 11:00a NHC report, Irma has weakened to a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds, but is expected to strengthen before hitting Florida.
Hurricane Irma has already begun to batter the Florida Keys, and “continues to remain a catastrophic and life-threatening Category 4 storm, with winds 130 miles per hour. This is a deadly storm. Our state has never seen anything like it.”
Gov. Scott, speaking from Sarasota, pointed out that the threat of significant storm surge flooding along both of Florida’s coasts has increased, with surge levels of 6 to 12 ft.
“Think about that,” he said. “6 to 12 ft impacts above ground level are now probable, 6 to 12 ft, think about that, 6 to 12 ft, this will cover your house.”
A storm surge flows in “very fast,” and then back out, Gov. Scott continued, and people in the way “will not survive all of the storm surge.”
Evacuations are in place statewide, said Scott, with more than 5.6 million Floridians ordered to evacuate, and he urged everyone to listen to local evacuation orders.
“If you live in an evacuation zone in southwest Florida, you need to be on the road by Noon or find the nearest shelter to avoid life-threatening weather,” he said. “It’s going to go faster than you are. These winds are coming.”
He further warned that people in the area who are not on the road should not get on the road after noon.
“If you’re on the west coast trying to go north, I mean, you’re going to have a hard time getting out,” the governor said. “Just remember this, once the storm starts, law enforcement cannot save you. I’m a dad and I’m a grandfather. I love my family more than anything. I cannot imagine life without them. Do not put your life or your family’s life at risk.”
School buses are aiding in the evacuations, and he urged people in the evacuation zones to take advantage of the service.
“If you need to leave and for whatever reason, you’re unable to leave, and you need help, whether it’s fuel, whichever the issue is call 1-800-342-3557.
“We will do everything to get you out. Protecting life is our absolute top priority. There will be no resource or expense spared to protect life. Our goal is to put every person in this state’s life.”
He urged Floridians to be aggressive to protect their families.
“Your possessions can be replaced,” he said. “Your life cannot be replaced. And your family cannot be replaced.”
The state government has been working with county officials to ensure there are enough shelters, said Scott. Currently, there are 260 shelters open statewide, in every county and at least 70 more will open Saturday.
“More than 50,000 Floridians have taken shelter and there’s still room for more,” said Gov. Scott. “If you have a building, emergency individuals ask you to open a shelter, please comply. It’s going to save people’s lives.This is so important to families seeking safety. Everyone in Florida needs to find a safe place to go.”
Evacuation routes are moving, and while the traffic is slow, “evacuations are not meant to be convenient. They’re meant to be safe. I am glad so many are taking this seriously and driving to a safe place.”
While the governor is stressing that people evacuate, he insisted that they do not have to leave the state or the county, but can take refuge in a shelter.
The state is also working aggressively to keep gas stations open and filled, but even that will not last longer, because it will not be safe on the roads, said the Governor.
“We’re doing as much as we can to get as much fuel as we can, while all the fuel ports are closed for safety.
“Our ports are closed so no more tankers. After the storm, as soon as we can get fuel trucks moving, we will do it again. I waived Florida’s motor import tax for five days to bring more fuel to the state for storm response and recovery.”
The state’s energy providers will also be aggressive about getting power back on as quickly as possible after the storm.
He also urged emergency providers to be available to help the community, and put out a call for 1,000 volunteer nurses to help at the state’s special needs shelters.
“I want to thank the governors of other states to provide every resource we’ve asked for. I know the entire country is behind this,” he said.
“I’ve been talking to the White House almost every day. I have talked to President Donald Trump, he has promised all federal resources. I have talked to Brock Long who runs FEMA this morning and he has guaranteed all federal resources. We have the country’s best first responders here in Florida.”
Mandatory evacuations were issued across Florida, with around 650,000 people fleeing Miami-Dade as part of the largest evacuation the county’s ever attempted.
President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was evacuated, along with the rest of Palm Beach.
“Prepare for the worst possible,” President Trump said Friday as he boarded Marine One, bound for Camp David.
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