ALERT -- Gov. Rick Scott urges Floridians to get out before Irma hits
Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a stern warning about Hurricane Irma on Wednesday, saying the Category 5 monster could be even more dangerous than Hurricane Andrew a quarter-century ago.
Scott, who has declared a statewide emergency, urged residents to heed mandatory evacuation orders that were declared locally throughout the Sunshine State.
“I cannot stress this enough: Do not ignore evacuation orders,” Scott said during a morning news conference. “We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life. Take what you need, but only what you need.”
Monroe County — which encompasses the Keys — issued mandatory evacuations for visitors that began Wednesday morning. The order will be issued in the evening for residents as well, the governor’s office said.
People with special needs will be evacuated from Miami on Wednesday, and Miami-Dade officials are advising residents in low-lying areas to also move out, officials said.
Storm models show multiple potential paths for the hurricane, but Scott warned residents not to wait for Irma, which could hit the east or west coast of Florida by early Sunday and unleash a deadly storm surge.
The hurricane is likely to hit the Florida Keys, according to meteorologists, but Scott said it also could target Fort Myers, Naples and Miami.
“It sure looks like it’s going to bear down right in the middle of Florida,” he told “Good Morning America” earlier Wednesday.
He said the approaching storm was “bigger, faster and stronger” than Andrew, which slammed into Florida in August 1992 as a Category 5 — the most destructive hurricane to ever hit the state at the time.
In total, the hurricane — which devastated Miami-Dade County — destroyed more than 63,500 houses, damaged more than 124,000 others, caused $26.5 billion in damages and left 65 people dead.
On Monday, Scott activated 100 members of the Florida National Guard to be deployed across the state, and another 900 National Guard members on Wednesday.
All 6,000 members are to report for duty Friday, he said.
Irma has sustained winds of 185 mph — with gusts topping 200 mph — and is forecast to move north of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands on Wednesday afternoon.