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Miami Beach Mayor Asks Residents To Voluntarily Evacuate Ahead Of Irma

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MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) — Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is asking residents to voluntarily evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma.

“This is so serious. There are so many people that may want to get off this island,” said Mayor Levine. “If you can, begin making plans now to leave Miami Beach.”

The mayor says while Miami-Dade County has not issued mandatory evacuations but that could come as soon as Wednesday and there are only so many ways to leave the island.

“The hurricane coming our way, Hurricane Irma, is one of the most powerful storms in the history of the Atlantic basin. It’s more powerful than Harvey. It’s potentially more powerful than Andrew and in anticipation of this evacuation order, I make a personal appeal to our residents to consider, earlier than the evacuation order to begin vacating our city assuming that you have a place to go,” said Mayor Levine.

The shelters will not open until the county issues a mandatory evacuation order. The same goes for elevated parking so Miami Beach residents can park their cars for safety.

The city has cancelled their events including the Miami International Auto Show.

“We have cancelled pretty much every and any event taking place in Miami Beach. That includes the car show,” said Mayor Levine.

Meantime, Miami Beach visitors and residents were preparing for the potential flood impacts.

On Tuesday, the city was handing out free sandbags to residents but flooding problems are at the top of the mind for those preparing.

The anxiety level of Miami Beach residents was rising as they waited in long lines for sandbags.

“This is really frightening because I just don’t know how this is going to affect us. I really don’t,” said Miami Beach native Pearl Attias.

“Close to an hour,” said Miami Beach native Silvia Winitzky.

Related: Where To Get Sandbags In South Florida, Ahead Of Irma

Leslie Munsell said Harvey’s destruction is what’s driving Floridians to be so prepared.

“I think because it’s such a big hurricane and after everything that happened in Houston everyone is paying more attention probably than they have in the past,” said Leslie Munsell, one of many who waited in long lines at the Public Works Department to get the 10 bags of sand the city is distributing per family.

Mayor Levine was even seen pitching in to try to help prevent what could be devastating storm surge and flooding from Irma.

“I don’t think anything is enough. But I think everything together helps create the most powerful resiliency we can happen to have,” said Mayor Levine.

Alex Devoto is stocking up. He evacuated 25 years ago for Hurricane Andrew. That was the last time the beach faced a threat this serious.

“Right now I’m going to hunker down and see what’s going on,” said Devoto.

The beach has brought in extra pumps and generators but the mayor admits they won’t likely stay on in a major hurricane. It’s concerning for parts of the city that flood with passing rainstorms.

Wendy Silva has used sandbags in the past to save her doggie daycare – Phoebe & Friend Doggy Daycare – from flooding. Irma is just not a chance she’s willing to take on. She says this will be the first time she has ever shutdown the daycare.

“We just don’t feel comfortable of taking on the liability of all these dogs and we feel terrible but we feel like if we have a mandatory evacuation we wouldn’t be able to…what do we do with 20-30 dogs,” said Silva.

Many beach residents and businesses have never seen a storm like this. The mayor admits the best action may be to just get out of the way.

“We hope for the best… expect the worst. This is a very powerful storm,” said Mayor Levine.

For those Miami Beach residents wanting bags of sand, the city says they will be open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Public Works Department located at 451 Dade Blvd. until they run out or are forced to stop because of inclement weather. An ID is required.

Resident are urged to stay informed and keep an eye on the storm. Miami-Dade County offers a variety of apps and alerts to stay up to date. You can sign up for Miami-Dade Emergency Alerts  that will let you know through email or texts about public safety issues, recommended public protective actions, or other emergency information. Their SAFE app lets users find open and available evacuation centers and Disaster Assistance Centers near you. To report damage info to the county, click here. 

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