The Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is urging residents to leave while there is still time.
Levine is hoping residents are taking the time between now and when Hurricane Irma arrives to evacuate. He said he will not endanger the lives of first responders by sending them out during the hurricane to rescue people who did not heed the warnings. He is promising major damage, CBS Miami reported.
“We just want to make sure people understand that you need to leave Miami Beach. This is not a place to be for a historically strong hurricane like Irma,” Levine said to CBS Miami.
Most of the tourist strip is boarded up and desolate, with a few people and police, along with the mayor, still there.
“I sent out a letter that went to all the visitors in our hotels that said ‘get out of Miami Beach.’ Never thought I would say that, but get out of Miami Beach,” added Levine. “The message is if you’re still here, please take today to leave as soon as you can. Go to one of our shelters in Miami-Dade County. We have busses that will take you, trolleys that will take you to the bus stop.”
The mayor is going to stay back in the safety of a hurricane-proof hospital. Hospital patients are also permitted to remain.
Building codes and hurricane safety precautions were upgraded after Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992. Although that was the most destructive Florida hurricane at the time, the mayor stresses no amount of precautions will be sufficient for Irma. Hurricane Irma is predicted to hit Florida with even more force and intensity than Andrew. During Andrew, more than two decades ago, 65 people died and more than a million people were evacuated.
“We don’t know how these buildings will fare during this tremendous impact,” said Levine.
“As this storm approaches and starts to hit, we are going to make sure that our first responders are not going to be out there putting their lives in jeopardy. We will be bunkered down, some of us at the hospital here in Miami Beach.”
Despite massive amounts of large water pumps and power generators being brought in to aid the situation, the mayor is telling the public not to rely on the city’s equipment. “Not only is it not designed for a hurricane, it’s certainly not designed for a hurricane of this historical magnitude.”
“Number one to the residents that are here, get out,” said Levine.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez of the larger Miami-Dade County said that 43 shelters with a total capacity for 100,000 people will be available by tonight, ABC 10 reported. An earlier shortage left some residents without a place to go. Gimenez said that the danger will begin the morning of Sept. 9, and last through the next day. The mayor is telling people to keep supplies and food for three days on hand.
The evacuation order affects 660,000 residents of Miami-Dade County. Homeless people who refuse to leave are being forcefully removed under a law that allows police to put them in hospitals against their will.