Rick Scott, state readying for Irma to go East Coast, West Coast, or up middle

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

The state of Florida, military, federal agencies and emergency response organizations are in gear, and South Florida counties are preparing for evacuations and closings starting Wednesday, but Gov. Rick Scott made clear Tuesday the challenge of preparing for massive Hurricane Irma remains the uncertainty.

“We’ll see what the storm does. If you look and play the odds, it sure looks like the storm will hit the East Coast, it could hit the West Coast, or come right up the middle of the state,” Scott said during a press conference Tuesday evening at the state’s emergency operations center in Tallahassee.

Scott summed up activities: He waved tolls on roll roads. He waived weight limits on trucks. He called out the first units of the National Guard and has 7,000 personnel on orders to report Friday. The Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from Lake Okeechobee to prepare it for more. School closures are being declared throughout South Florida counties, with some starting tomorrow. Shelters are being coordinated. Evacuations begin Wednesday in Monroe County, the Florida Keys, and for special needs people in Miami-Dade.

But the question does not appear to be whether Irma, now a Category 5 with maximum winds of 185 mph, will hot Florida, but where? That, Scott said, will guide future decisions in the coming days.

“So we’ll be doing more evacuations,” he assured.

“There’s a lot of projected paths. I think everybody has got to assume the you’re going to be impacted,” he said. “This is a big, this is a big, this is a big storm.”

On Tuesday Scott described taking a number of briefings, from Florida National Guard leaders, military leaders, county sheriffs, city police, schools superintendents, the Red Cross, federal authorities, and others. With them all, he said, the message he received was there were no unmet needs. Yet.

“Everybody believes we’re in good shape, but you don’t know what is going to happen,” Scott said.

And he pushed the message all levels are government are pushing: People should get ready now. And if the evacuation orders come, go.

This storm has winds of 185 miles per hour, 185 miles per hour. Just think about that. This storm is massive and the storm surge as prictedted will go for miles and miles. In some instances it can cover homes and go very far inland

“We need to also prepare for torrential rain, and extreme and life-threatening wind,” he said.

“It is incredibly important for all Floridians keep a close eye on this incredibly dangerous storm. Do not sit and wait to prepare. Get prepared now.”

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]