Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi has a message for anyone left in the Keys: “Get out.”
“Hurricane Irma is a very strong, very dangerous storm that has life-threatening winds and even scarier storm surge potential,” he said. “Even the Coast Guard is evacuating all of its personnel. Please evacuate.”
And, Gastesi added, “Once a dangerous storm starts, don’t dial 911 during it because nobody is going to answer.”
Monroe County Emergency Management held its latest Keys-wide briefing and the news from Jon Rizzo, meteorologist from the National Weather Service Key West, was not good.
Rizzo said that a portion of the Keys could suffer storm surge of 5 to 10 feet and life threatening winds of more than 110 mph are possible through most of the Keys. Ocean Reef now has a 56 percent chance of hurricane force winds and the percentages continue to rise as the storm gets closer.
Hurricane Irma, now a Category 5 storm with winds of 175 mph, is especially worrisome because it is so large, with hurricane force winds spanning more than 100 miles.
The Florida Keys have been under a hurricane watch and storm surge watch and it is expected that those soon will be upgraded to hurricane warnings and storm surge warnings. This means those conditions are possible within 36 hours
Tropical force winds are expected to hit the Keys late Saturday morning to early Saturday afternoon. Core hurricane force winds could hit the Keys Saturday evening into Sunday morning.
Here’s the latest updates:
· The Key West Transit hurricane evacuation bus will begin picking up people in Key West at 6 a.m. It makes stops all along U.S. 1 in the Keys. It will take people to Monroe County’s two shelters in Miami-Dade County: FIU and the pet-friendly E. Darwin Fuchs Pavilion at the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds and Exposition. About 200 people were transported on these evacuation buses on Thursday.
· The last Greyhound bus is scheduled to leave Key West at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
· The Miami-Dade Transit Route 301 from Marathon to 344th Street Park & Ride on the mainland will be in service until conditions become unsafe.
· At 8 a.m. Friday, the Port of Key West will close.
· The locking of the Snake Creek Drawbridge in Islamorada will begin at 6 a.m. and be finished by 8 a.m.
· Acquiring gas deliveries has been a top priority, and deliveries are expected to five gas stations throughout the Keys on Friday.
· The last commercial flight departed Key West International Airport on Thursday night. General aviation will continue at the airport until conditions are unsafe, likely Saturday morning.
· General aviation at Florida Keys Marathon International Airport will continue until conditions are unsafe.
· However, all general aviation services, including fueling, are suspended at both airports.