South Florida came under a hurricane watch Thursday. That meant Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez got briefed on Hurricane Irma’s storm surge potential - and the data Gimenez heard prompted him to broaden the county’s area of mandatory evacuation.
Irma could hit Miami directly Sunday morning with destructive Category 4-force winds. As a result, Gimenez had already ordered a mandatory (but voluntary) evacuation for residents closest to shore – Zone A.
Then he got confirmation from the National Hurricane Center that the ocean storm surge could hit 10 feet, causing devastating damage and flooding beyond Zone A. So he is now including Zone B and parts of C.
Speaking at the Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center in Doral, Gimenez called that evacuation “unprecedented” for Miami-Dade.
“These are areas that might experience life-threatening storm surge," Gimenez said. "I cannot stress this enough: don’t wait to evacuate... You know, I know we’re asking a lot of our residents. This is probably over 650,000 people.”
Earlier in Doral, Florida Senator Marco Rubio asked Congress to pass more than $15 billion in new disaster relief aid. It’s earmarked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA – already dealing with a hurricane flooding disaster in Texas.
“We’re now talking about a week from now, three weeks from now, will FEMA be able to continue to deliver the services that it needs to deliver?” Rubio said.
Gimenez said Miami-Dade can potentially open 28 evacuation shelters. So far eight are open.