Irma Forces Evacuation Orders For Roughly One Quarter Of Floridians

Sep 8, 2017

Hurricane Irma approaching Anguilla from NOAA's GOES-16 satellite.
Credit NOAA

Tallahassee and Leon County aren’t under evacuation orders due to Hurricane Irma, but so far roughly one in four Floridians are. 

As of Friday evening state emergency officials estimate 5.6 million Floridians are under an evacuation order.  That’s slightly more than one quarter of the state’s total population of 20.6 million.

Mandatory evacuations have come down for parts of ten Florida counties—primarily in South Florida along the coasts.   Further north, Taylor County has ordered anyone in low lying, coastal and RV areas to seek shelter. 

State officials warn the 5.6 million figure is only an estimate, and it could change as the storm’s trajectory shifts.   They also note not everyone has complied with orders to leave.

Still, the glut of residents heading north has clogged major roadways.  In a Friday evening press conference Governor Rick Scott explained highway patrol officers are clearing bottlenecks and allowing motorists to drive on the shoulder in some areas. 

But the governor is hesitant to open up all lanes to northbound traffic—what transportation officials refer to as contraflow.

“Contraflow inhibits our ability to get emergency vehicles to people that need them,” Scott says, “and we still need southbound lanes to get needed gas and supplies down to shelters and families in the southern part of the state.”

Scott is also issuing a stern warning to South Florida residents in evacuation zones who have so far stayed home.

“If you have been ordered to evacuate, leave now,” Scott says. 

“Not tonight, not in an hour—now.”

Scott says evacuees coming from Lee, Hendry, Palm Beach and any counties further south, need to be on the road by midnight Friday. 

“If you’re in any of those areas and are planning to leave and have not done so by midnight—don’t get on the road.”