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With Florida In Hurricane Irma's Sights, Residents Get Ready


Hurricane Irma continues to batter - battle - battle - the Caribbean with Category 5 winds of up to 180 miles an hour, causing destruction and taking many lives. It's expected to reach Florida by the weekend. This morning, Governor Rick Scott warned Floridians to take this storm seriously.


RICK SCOTT: Do not ignore evacuation orders. Remember, we can rebuild your home. You can get your possessions again, but you can't get your life back. Regardless of which coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate. This storm can change.

MARTIN: Hurricane Irma will likely first hit the Florida Keys. Many residents there are already taking the governor's advice and evacuating.

BRIT MOSES: All you see is people putting sandbags in front of businesses, boards in front of windows, hurricane shutters.

MARTIN: Brit Moses (ph) hit bumper-to-bumper traffic on her way out. She says cars trying to get gas were lined up all the way onto the highway.

MOSES: And now, the gas has completely ran out.

MARTIN: It took Doug Finger (ph) 45 minutes to fill up his tank before he left with his wife and 4-year-old son. He's a Florida native, and he remembers living through Hurricane Andrew.

DOUG FINGER: When the governor said this is bigger, meaner, faster than Andrew, that kind of hit me - this is scary.

MARTIN: What worries him the most? He still has family in the Keys who are determined to ride out the storm.

FINGER: I'm struggling really hard to figure out why people would want to do that, especially my family.

MARTIN: Joining us now from Miami is NPR's Greg Allen, who is following all of this. Greg, as we heard from Governor Scott, he wants people to take the storm seriously. What else did he say in his press conference this morning?

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Right. Well, in his most recent briefings, we've been hearing the same message over and over, Rachel. It's get ready, Florida. He talked a lot about the power, the size of this storm. It could cover the entire peninsula - it's that wide when it comes up from the south - and warned people on both coasts need to be ready. He talked a lot about fuel. That's a big concern here. We've got gas lines. A lot of gas stations are out of fuel. It's causing some, you know, near panic in some situations for people who want to evacuate and even for people who are staying.

So he talked about - he's - they're going to provide escorts to tankers. They're asking the federal government to relax regulations. They're going to keep the ports open, everything they can do to keep these gas stations full of gas for people. Another issue that came up is the nuclear plant. We have two nuclear plants down at Turkey Point in Homestead, south of Miami. And those will be shut down before the hurricane hits. Some of the paths now take it right directly over these nuclear plants in Homestead, so that's a concern. He talked a little bit about that.

Another issue is Lake Okeechobee, which has a long - a big dike around it that's just earth that's been there for many years. It ruptured in the '20s, was one of the greatest disasters in U.S. history. He said that they're confident that that's good right now. But if we get a lot of rain, there could be some issues there. So those are some of the things he talked about.

MARTIN: Wow, so a lot...

ALLEN: The big issue is evacuations, though. We have a mandatory evacuation in Miami-Dade County, Broward County and Florida Keys. And that's going to go forward. And - but, you know, only about 150,000 people out of Miami are being evacuated. That's out of 2.7 million people who live here, so we've got a lot of people who are going to be riding out the storm.

MARTIN: So that means that they're just going to take the risk? I mean, the mandatory evacuation's in place for some people. But other people, it's not like the governor saying, you're fine. He is still urging people to take precautions and even to leave.

ALLEN: Right. But, you know, it's not practical for 3.7 - or 2.7 million people here plus a couple of million in Broward to just get on the roads. Right now, there's a lot of concern about the roads. And traffic is abominable out there on the turnpike. And they're going to open up the shoulders to let people evacuate. But it's really - you can't evacuate everyone. They just get people off the coast, away from that big storm surge which is expected.

MARTIN: You mentioned the hurricane's path, concerns that it could go right over these two nuclear plants, so precautions are being taken. What can you tell us about the latest forecast? What do we know about the path?

ALLEN: Well, you know, what it all rests on right now is when Irma turns north. It's headed on a kind of westerly path. And around Saturday, this hurricane - by all the models, show it turning north. And that's when it turns right into Florida. Some of the paths take it right up the center of the peninsula. Some of them take it a little bit to the right, to the East Coast. Some of them take it to the West Coast. But the message right now for everyone is just get ready.

MARTIN: NPR's Greg Allen reporting from Miami. Thanks so much, Greg.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.