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Window of Opportunity to Evacuate Closing in Florida

by Countable | 9.6.17

What’s the story?

Mandatory evacuations have begun in southern Florida in response to the catastrophic threats posed by Hurricane Irma. Evacuation orders will likely continue into Thursday, but this area has limited major highways, which complicates evacuations, and the window to safely leave is closing rapidly.

Why does it matter?

Hurricane Irma made landfall on Wednesday in the Caribbean. As a Category 5 hurricane with 185-mph winds it is the largest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history.

Irma’s eye passed over Barbuda at around 1:47 a.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. Winds were clocked at 155-mph before the weather station was knocked offline.

Puerto Rico, as well as Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas are bracing for life threatening storm surges, catastrophic wind damage, flash flooding and mudslides, which could begin Wednesday and continue into Thursday and Friday, given the size of the storm.

The exact storm track is hard to predict, but the Florida Keys ordered the first mandatory evacuations starting Wednesday morning. Residents of Monroe County, where the Keys are located, were ordered to begin evacuations Wednesday night. There is a single highway that snakes through the 120-mile island chain and into the Florida mainland which is already bottlenecked with evacuees.

According to the Washington Post, Miami-Dade County, the most populous in Florida, "said it would begin ordering evacuations on Wednesday, likely starting with the coastal regions and Miami Beach."

There are two main routes up and out of Florida, which are normally heavily congested Interstate 95 and the Florida Turnpike. In order to ease potentially fatal traffic jams, Gov. Rick Scott has ordered starting Tuesday that no tolls be collected.

President Trump has already declared an emergency in Florida as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. All 7000 members of the Florida National Guard will be mobilized by Friday.

In a Wednesday news briefing Gov. Scott implored residents to heed evacuation orders:

"If you’re told to evacuate, get out quickly. I cannot stress this enough: Do not ignore evacuation orders. Remember, we can rebuild your home but we cannot rebuild your life."

What can you do?

If you are in Florida, CountaFamily, heed evacuation warnings with efficiency, please. Depending on the storm track, flooding could reach coastal Georgia and South Carolina, so residents should have a plan and stock up on supplies before the weekend.

Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think they should do about disaster relief in the midst of this unprecedented storm season!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: National Hurricane Center / Creative Commons)

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