Florida Gov. Rick Scott strongly urged residents in evacuation zones to leave their homes on Saturday as Hurricane Irma headed toward the state’s southwest coast.
“If you have been ordered to evacuate anywhere in the state, you need to leave right now. Not tonight, not in an hour, now. You are running out of time to make a decision,” he said.
The storm was downgraded to a Category 3 Hurricane on Saturday as it barreled toward Florida, with Miami and the Florida Keys already experiencing 60 mph winds. The state’s highways were packed with people evacuating south Florida on Saturday after officials ordered about 6.3 million people to leave their homes. Scott said on Saturday that more than 25,000 homes have lost power.
About 54,000 people have already moved to more than 320 shelters, with more opening today.
Weather forecasters are projecting that the hurricane’s path will strike the Florida Keys on Sunday afternoon before moving up the Gulf Coast toward Tampa Bay. Scott also warned of a storm surge that could reach as high as 15 feet in some areas and “will cover your house.”
Scott said “evacuation routes are moving” as residents continue to flee north, while the state is working aggressively to bring in depleted fuel supplies and prepare for widespread power outages. “The rainfall is already in this area and the wind will begin tonight,” he said.