Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and other South Florida government leaders have an emphatic message for residents this afternoon: a hurricane is still visiting you tonight and tomorrow.
Even though National Hurricane Center updates now show Hurricane Irma making landfall on Florida’s southwest coast instead of the southeast tip, the storm is still projected to be large enough – a 300-mile diameter of tropical force winds, or twice the width the Florida peninsula – and strong enough – Category 4, or winds in excess of 130 mph – to smack Miami hard. And, lest we forget, still whip up enough storm surge in Biscayne Bay to cause disastrous flooding.
“There have been some rumors about Miami-Dade County being in the clear and being safe from a hit by Hurricane Irma because we’re no longer” in the storm’s direct path, Gimenez said at the county’s Emergency Operations Center in Doral at noon on Saturday.
“Let me make this very clear: Miami-Dade County is still expecting to be impacted by Hurricane Irma. In fact, I’ve heard reports that we’ve already had some [wind] gusts that exceed hurricane force… The storm surge threat: it still stands.”
But as he warned Miami-Dade denizens to stay vigilant – he urged people who have taken shelter to stay put until the all-clear sometime tomorrow. Gimenez said he didn’t think it necessary to issue a curfew for late Saturday afternoon and Saturday night as Irma’s hurricane-force winds and rains begin to arrive.
Broward and Palm Beach Counties, as well as the cities of Miami and Miami Beach in Miami-Dade County, have issued such curfews in order to prevent people from venturing out in potentially life-threatening conditions. (Miami-Dade officials said privately, however, that they don’t expect those governments to put law enforcement in harm’s way to enforce those curfews.)
In Miami-Dade – where Gimenez this week ordered the largest evacuation in South Florida’s history out of concern for Irma’s 10-foot-high storm surge potential – about 26,000 evacuees have gone to the 42 shelters set up the county, Miami-Dade Schools, the Red Cross and the National Guard.
Of those 42, at noon Saturday 11 were filled to capacity, including the three designated as pet-friendly. (Since almost 1,000 pets are in those shelters, the county turned one of the open shelters, at the Miami Lakes Educational Center & Technical College at NW 158th St and 57th Ave., into a site that accomodates animals.) As of 2 p.m., county buses were no longer taking people to the shelters.