Just how catastrophic South Florida leaders fear Hurricane Irma could be became evident Thursday when Miami-Dade County ordered an evacuation the mayor called “unprecedented,” as hope diminished that the Category 5 beast would somehow avoid us.
“We have to prepare for the worst,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez said moments after instructing more than 650,000 people to get out.
His decision, announced after a lengthy internal analysis of flood maps and projections of potentially deadly storm surge, made the National Hurricane Center’s Thursday forecasts finally sink in: Irma is set to hit the Florida peninsula directly, though exactly where continues to be uncertain.
Increasingly grim-faced emergency managers across the state did not hesitate. Evacuations extended from the Florida Keys to Palm Beach and beyond, as counties along Florida’s east coast eyed the storm’s projected path north. Even Georgia required its coastal residents to leave.
In the middle of it all were frantic residents trying to figure out if the orders applied to themor their loved ones — and how far they might have to go to heed them. Some decided to go before it was too late.
“I think this is going to be a catastrophe,” said David Kelsey, a South Beach resident who waited for a county school bus to shuttle him and other seniors to shelters on the mainland. He walked to Rebecca Towers, two bayfront senior housing buildings south of Fifth Street. “I think there is going to be devastation.”
Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald