‘This is a buzz saw’ – Florida braces for Hurricane Irma’s arrival
Published 7:39 am Thursday, September 7, 2017
MIAMI— Florida residents picked store shelves clean and long lines formed at gas pumps Wednesday as Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 monster with potentially catastrophic winds of 185 mph, steamed toward the Sunshine State and a possible direct hit on the Miami metropolitan area of nearly 6 million people.
The most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic destroyed homes and flooded streets as it roared through a chain of small islands in the northern Caribbean some 1,000 miles from Florida. Forecasters said Irma could strike the Miami area by early Sunday, then rake the entire length of the state’s east coast and push into Georgia and the Carolinas.
“This thing is a buzz saw,” warned Colorado State University meteorology professor Phil Klotzbach. “I don’t see any way out of it.”
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An estimated 25,000 people or more left the Florida Keys after all visitors were ordered to clear out, causing bumper-to-bumper traffic on the single highway that links the chain of islands to the mainland.
But because of the uncertainty in any forecast this far out, state and local authorities in Miami and Fort Lauderdale held off for the time being on ordering any widespread evacuations there.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott waived tolls on all Florida highways and told people if they were thinking about leaving to “get out now.” But in the same breath, he acknowledged that “it’s hard to tell people where to go until we know exactly where it will go.”