FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – With an impact from Hurricane Irma just days away, Broward County has officially declared a state of emergency.
“Broward County is still under a local state of emergency as Hurricane Irma continues to be a very powerful storm with the capability of causing widespread damage,” said Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief.
The mayor, along with Broward County’s Sheriff Scott Isreal, asked everyone to finalize their plans before the arrival of the tropical storm force winds.
In order to alleviate some congestion on the roads, Sharief urged anyone who planned to stay with family or friends to begin that stay now and not wait until the last minute.
The county will issue a mandatory evacuation order on Thursday for people living in the coastal areas. These areas are east of Federal Highway, including the barrier islands.
The mandatory evacuation will also cover those living in low-lying areas and those living in mobile homes.
The county plans to open its 14 shelters on Thursday at noon. Click Here for locations and a map. Anyone who plans to stay in one is urged to bring their own bedding, snacks, medications, and anything else they may need.
“Please remember that shelters are a refuge of last resort. They provide a safe, short-term place to weather the storm,” said Sharief.
Broward County has one pet-friendly General Population shelter at Millennium Middle School in Tamarac. Pre-registration of pets is required. To register, call the Humane Society at 954-989-3977. Other than the pet-friendly shelter, General Population shelters do not accommodate pets other than service animals.
Sharief said Irma is expected to be a wind event like Hurricane Wilma in 2005. She urged all residents to put up shutters or any other protective measures if they have them.
All Broward county government offices and public schools will be closed on Thursday and Friday.
As for Broward’s courts, most will close at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and remain closed through Monday.
Only first appearance, juvenile arrangements and shelters will be held on a weekend schedule Thursday and Friday.
The county’s Emergency Operations Center will be activated at 7 a.m. on Thursday.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport remains open but visitors are urged to check with their airline or cruise line for possible schedule changes. There have been several delays and cancellations so far today.
Port Everglades is currently operating under normal conditions.
Sharief said the South Florida Water Management District has been lowering canal levels in anticipation of this storm.
Addressing the complaints that some gas stations have run out of gas, Sharieff said trucks will continue fuel deliveries to stations across South Florida until the county experiences sustained tropical storm force winds. She advises drivers to be patient and conserve their fuel.
The county has also opened a hotline to answer any questions. Call 311 if you’re in Broward or 954-831-4000. You can also sign up for Alert! Broward for alerts on life-threatening emergencies and public safety threats. You can also text “AlertBroward” to 888777 to receive Emergency Notifications only.