Massive evacuations in Florida as Irma draws near

MIAMI (CNN) — Hurricane Irma is now a Category Four storm. Maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly to 155 miles an hour. But it’s still a dangerous and deadly storm  and, with millions of residents in Irma’s path, Florida isn’t taking any chances.

As Hurricane Irma makes its way toward the Florida coastline, the state is going from business-as-usual to storm-ready.

Florida is busy preparing for Hurricane Irma.

Forecasters still aren’t sure exactly where the storm will hit, but people in the sunshine state are getting ready anyway.

Ramon Gastesi, Monroe County Administrator, said, “You might as well leave now while you have the chance because when you dial 911, you will not get an answer.”

They’re getting out however they can.

Travelers stood in line for hours at airports.

While drivers waited at gas stations, some of which ran out of fuel.

Cars headed north caused interstate backups and slowdowns.

Depending on Irma’s path,  the powerful, Category Five storm could create one of the largest mass evacuations in U.S. history with some 6 million residents of southern Florida potentially impacted.

The urgency is spurred by the destruction Irma has wrought in the Caribbean.

Irma shredded buildings, toppled cars, and left streets submerged in water.

On island after island, survivors describe apocalyptic scenes:

Josephine Gumbs-Connor, survived Irma in Anguilla and said, “One of the oldest churches here in Anguilla — completely destroyed, and it’s a shell. The magnitude … it’s just … I keep saying it’s incomprehensible because that’s what we’re seeing on the ground.”

These stories — and the aftermath of Harvey in Texas — have the southeastern coast of the U.S. taking Irma very seriously.

And Florida Governor Rick Scott has said that all government buildings as well as public schools and public universities will be closed at least through Monday so they can serve as shelters, if needed. Now in Miami, they are opening up 13 additional shelters later this morning.

Reporting in Miami, Kristen Holmes.

 

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