Florida Keys & Key West Evacuation Orders for Hurricane Irma

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National Hurricane Center

A mandatory visitor evacuation for Key West and the rest of the Florida Keys was ordered to begin on Wednesday, September 6 as Hurricane Irma approaches. Monroe County will also issue mandatory evacuation of residents, although the timing had not yet been announced.

Now a powerful Category 5 storm with 175 mph winds, Hurricane Irma’s projected path would cut through the Florida Keys, and government officials are urging visitors and residents in the Florida Keys to take the powerful hurricane very seriously.

Monroe County wrote on Facebook on September 5:

MONROE COUNTY TO ISSUE MANDATORY EVACUATIONS FOR VISITORS AND RESIDENTS

With the storm track of Category 5 Hurricane Irma still headed for the Florida Keys, Monroe County will be issuing a mandatory visitor evacuation expected to begin at sunrise on Wednesday. An evacuation for residents also will be issued. The time has yet to be determined.

However, tourists and residents are encouraged to start evacuation plans now and the earlier people leave the Keys the less traffic they are likely to encounter.

‘If ever there was a storm to take seriously in the Keys, this is it,’ Monroe County Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt said. “The sooner people leave, the better.”

Now is a good time for tourists and residents to fill their tanks with fuel and complete their evacuation plans. There will be no shelters in Monroe County. Information about out-of-town shelters is in the works.

Monroe County is closing all of its government offices and County parks on Wednesday, Sept. 6. Essential County employees, emergency management and Fire Rescue personnel will be at work. The Monroe County Emergency Operation Center is opening at noon today.

Visitors with near-term plans to travel to the Keys must postpone them until the storm passes and an infrastructure assessment can be completed. Details will be available on fla-keys.com.

The Monroe County School District said at the 9 a.m. Monroe County emergency management briefing that all schools will be closed Wednesday. Monroe County’s three hospitals – the Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West, Fishermen’s Hospital in Marathon and Mariners Hospital in Tavernier – have begun plans to evacuate their patients. Monroe County’s Health Department also is closing Wednesday.

While law enforcement operations will obviously continue in Monroe County, administrative offices will be closed starting on Wednesday, said Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay,
Today is the last day to sign up for the Monroe County Special Needs Registry. For more information or to register online, go to: http://www.fl-monroecounty.civicplus.com/index.aspx?=148 or call 305-292-4591.

The chances for a direct impact from Hurricane Irma on the Florida Keys this weekend or later in the week are increasing, but the magnitude is still not clear. Tropical storm force winds could be seen in the Keys by Friday evening. “It is too early to determine what direct impacts Irma might have on the Keys or other parts of Florida, but preparation is key, emergency management officials said,” according to the Florida Keys website.

However, the signs aren’t good.

“It’s already the strongest hurricane ever recorded outside the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s likely to make landfall somewhere in Florida over the weekend,” The Washington Post reported.

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“All of Florida — especially South Florida and the Keys — should be preparing for a major hurricane landfall on Sunday. Tropical-storm-force winds are expected to arrive as soon as Friday.” The Post noted of the storm’s unpredictability: “Computer models are in strong agreement that by Saturday, Irma will be approaching the Florida Keys — where dangerous storm conditions are likely. Then, they show a sharp northward turn by Sunday morning. The precise timing and location of the turn has huge implications for Florida.” It’s not clear how the storm will track after that, The Post reported – east Florida, west Florida or straight up into the state.

The NWS reported:

“This is an important message for the residents of the Florida Keys. Hurricane Irma is forecast to track just north of the Caribbean islands this week, potentially approaching the Keys late this week. Tropical Storm conditions are possible as early as Friday, but it is still too early for specific details on the strength and track of this system. As a result, residents and visitors of the Florida Keys are encouraged to monitor the latest forecasts concerning Hurricane Irma from the National Hurricane Center and your local forecast office. Now is a good time for residents to go over their hurricane plan. Visitors are encouraged to check with hotels and local officials regarding initial preparedness actions that may need to be initiated.”

Follow updated radar for Key West here. See updated infrared satellite maps for the area here. See an hourly forecast for Key West here. Track Hurricane Irma’s path here. See the hazardous weather outlook for Key West here.

Here’s the hurricane’s path as of September 5:

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hurricane irma path

National Weather ServiceHurricane Irma on the morning of September 5.

Here’s another look at it:

Hurricane Irma St. Pete

National Hurricane Center

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The National Weather Service’s Key West office wrote on September 4: “#FLKeys are now located in the five day @NHC_Atlantic Hurricane #Irma track forecast cone. Impact chances increasing. #KeyWest #flwx.” See Hurricane Irma prep information for the Florida Keys here. On September 5, the alert said, “All of the Florida Keys remain within the five day National Hurricane Center track forecast cone. There continues to be an increasing chance of Hurricane Irma impacts in the Florida Keys, starting as early as Friday evening and persisting through the weekend. Everyone should ensure that they have their hurricane plan (ready.gov/make-a-plan) in place and their disaster supplies kit (ready.gov/build-a-kit) stocked with essential items.”