If you live on any of Miami-Dade County's barrier islands or in low-lying coastal areas, now is the time to get out. After hurricane forecasts put Miami square in the center of Hurricane Irma's path, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez late Wednesday ordered a mandatory evacuation of all residents of barrier islands including Miami Beach, as well as those living in low-lying areas along the South Miami-Dade coastline. The order is effective Thursday.
Gimenez said everyone living in the red-colored "Zone A" on Miami-Dade's flood map needs to leave. Evacuations were also ordered only for the orange "Zone B" areas on barrier islands — including Bal Harbour, Bay Harbor Islands, Golden Beach, Indian Creek Village, Miami Beach, North Bay Village, Sunny Isles Beach, and Surfside. (If you live in a mobile home, you also must leave, no matter where you live.) The order reportedly affects more than 100,000 people.
"We are alerting people 12 hours ahead of time, giving people time to prepare," Gimenez said from the podium. "This storm does not appear to be going anywhere." The mayor warned he might expand evacuation zones as the storm moves closer.
Here's a map of the current evacuation area, via the Miami Herald's Doug Hanks:
So here are the current evacuation maps for Miami-Dade. One zooms in between Golden Beach and Virginia Key. pic.twitter.com/GSIDRKgAUy— Doug Hanks (@doug_hanks) September 7, 2017
Four hurricane shelters opened at 5 p.m. today — North Miami Senior High, South Miami Senior High, Felix Varela Senior High School, and Fuchs Pavilion at the Fair Expo in West Miami-Dade, which is pet-friendly. Four other shelters will open tomorrow at 9 a.m., but the county stresses that people should use them only if they have no other place to stay.
Here's a clip of the mayor's news conference tonight:
If you don't already, now is the time to check out Miami-Dade's interactive flood map, where you can key in your address and find out which zone you live in.
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You can find up-to-date information about road closings, event cancellations, evacuation orders, and other items at miamidade.gov/emergency.
Gimenez warned that Florida expects massive traffic jams up and down the peninsula as residents try to leave for dryer land up north. He asked that those wishing to leave do so sooner rather than later. "I want to remind residents that even though no one will be forcing you to leave your home, if you live in an evacuation zone and anything happens, fire rescue and police personnel may not be able to reach you," Gimenez said.
But he added that, as long as you prepare in advance, "there is no need to panic."