PALM BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – As Hurricane Irma takes aim for Florida, Governor Rick Scott is doubling down on evacuation orders and bolstering the state’s response. At a press conference Thursday afternoon, the governor announced he’s activated an additional 3,000 members of the Florida Army and Air National Guard to prepare for the deadly storm. All 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard will be deployed by Friday.
“We are expecting our state to have major impacts from Hurricane Irma and we are taking aggressive actions to make sure Florida is prepared. Today we will have more than 4,000 total Florida National Guard members activated, with all remaining members ready to report for duty first thing tomorrow to assist with preparation efforts. These men and women are putting themselves in harm’s way to save the lives of their fellow Floridians while many of their own families are evacuating. I am proud of their commitment to keeping our families safe,” said the governor.
Scott said 31,000 people have already evacuated from the Florida Keys and urged residents who are still in the area to get out immediately. “We can’t save you once the storm starts,” said Scott. “You can rebuild your home, get your possessions again, but you cannot rebuild your life or your family.” All hospitals in the Keys will be evacuated by the end of the day.
Hurricane and Storm Surge watches are in effect for parts of South Florida and the Florida Keys. The governor said additional watches should be expected. He warned the storm may move west and said Floridians on the west coast should not be complacent.
Mandatory evacuation orders have already been issued in Miami Dade and Monroe Counties and voluntary evacuation orders have been issued in Broward and Collier Counties. Pinellas County Commissioners approved mandatory evacuation for Level A residents. Manatee County officials on issued a voluntary evacuation order for residents who live in evacuation Level A and residents who live in mobile homes.
Scott said all Floridians should pay close attention to local alerts and follow the directions of local officials. Shelters are opening doors in coastal counties throughout the day, including shelters for people with special needs, pets and general populations.
He asked that drivers be considerate of others when pumping gas and only use as much fuel as necessary. The governor said he has spoken to FEMA, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House about waiving rules and regulations to get more fuel into the state. All tolls have been waived across Florida roadways, according to Scott.
Scott also mentioned that Comcast will be opening hundreds of thousands of Xfinity Wifi hotspots throughout Florida and that Verizon and AT&T are also helping provide hotspots.
The governor said the state is in desperate need of volunteers. More than 8,000 people have volunteered to help with response efforts, but the state needs a total of 17,000 volunteers statewide. Those interested in volunteering can sign up by visiting floridavolunteer.org or calling 1-800-FL-HELP-1.
State Emergency Operations Center/ Contact Information:
- The State Emergency Operations Center has been activated to level one, which is a full-scale, 24-hours-a-day activation.
- The Florida Emergency Information Line has been activated and is available 24/7 for families and victors at 1-800-342-3557.
- The media line is 850-921-0217.
- Follow @FLSert or @FLGovScott on Twitter for live updates on Hurricane Irma.
- Visit http://www.floridadisaster.org to find information on shelters, road closures, and evacuation routes.
- On Monday, Governor Scott issued Executive Order 17-235 declaring a state of emergency in all 67 counties within the State of Florida.
- On Tuesday, Governor Scott requested, and President Donald Trump approved, a pre-landfall emergency declaration for the State of Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma which provided important preparation resources and assistance from the federal government.