evacuation shelters

Kate Stein / WLRN

In the hours before Hurricane Irma came barreling towards Florida, Gloria Guity and her adult children went to five different shelters before they arrived at Miami Edison Senior High School.

“Here is better than where we were,” Guity, 76, said sitting at a cafeteria table. “Here I told them to put me next to the bathroom so at least I can take them to the bathroom.”

Kate Stein / WLRN News

"Where are the cots? Where are the blankets? Where's the back-up?" These were some of the questions evacuees at the Miami Edison Senior High School shelter were asking after waiting more than 36 hours for the arrival of Hurricane Irma. Food was running out. One person attempted suicide. And quite a few people left before the storm was over.

Wilson Sayre / WLRN News

While many people in shelters across South Florida are glued to televisions, anxiously waiting for Hurricane Irma to pass, there have been some happy moments as these shelters turn into mini communities.

Among stacks of blankets and air mattresses in the cafeteria at the Falcon Cove Middle School shelter in Weston, Hunter Fugh squirts icing from a tube onto a cake.

"It's chocolate flavored and it has chocolate frosting on the top. We’re eating cake because it’s my birthday," said now 6-year-old Hunter.

Wilson Sayre / WLRN News

The following is a collection of dispatches from WLRN reporters staying at shelters in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, which by 6 p.m. on Saturday were hosting almost 45,000 people (15,000 in Broward and more than 29,000 in Miami-Dade), as well as about 1,000 pets. 

Eric Gay / AP via Miami Herald

Two days ago – when Hurricane Irma was forecast to hit Miami directly as a Category 5 storm – Miami-Dade County was staring at a potential storm surge of 10 feet. Now that Irma’s path has shifted west to Florida’s Gulf coast, the surge is expected to be half that.

But Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is warning that’s still enough to cause not just dangerous flooding but drowning – especially since South Florida may well experience the equivalent of Category 1 or 2 hurricane winds when Irma arrives early Sunday.