By David Dwork

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KEY WEST (CBSMiami) – The message from Monroe County officials on Thursday morning has not changed from the past couple days.

Residents across the Florida Keys need to need evacuation orders and get off the island chain.

Hurricane Irma, still an extremely strong Category 5, has continued on its path and is forecast to begin impacting south Florida late Friday or early Saturday.

Monroe County Mayor George Neugent said not leaving would be an “irresponsible decision.”

“If a rescue is needed for those people only interested in their own situation, we would have to call out first responders to rescue them and that’s not gonna happen once the storm is hitting,” Neugent said Wednesday. “It would be a bad decision for people not to continue to observe the mandatory evacuation.”

Residents who don’t have access to transportation or need assistance can the Monroe EOC public information hotline at 1-800-955-5504.

Evacuation shuttles are running and will continue to run through Thursday from Key West up to the hurricane shelter at Florida International University, which is scheduled to open to the public at 4 p.m.

“If you need transportation contact the EOC and we’ll make sure you’re on the list to be picked up,” said Key West City Manager James School.

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There are no public shelters anywhere in Monroe County. Residents who choose to stay behind could be unreachable after Hurricane Irma hits.

“It’s imperative to get people out. We don’t shelter here in place,” added Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi. There’s no buildings that we can guarantee that we can keep people safe with an 185mph hurricane. There’s no way.”

Those still in the Keys who are able to transport themselves, the message remained clear.

“Sooner is better,” School said. If you’ve got the means to leave, you need to leave now.”

The gas supply situation is described as “changing on an hourly bases” by Gastesi.

“It’s back and fourth,” he said. “I don’t know what to tell you other than social media is working well, people are calling each other. When we know the information we’ll put it out but what we’ve found is that as soon as we push it out, people get there and it sells out so it’s a difficult situation, there’s no doubt.”

There is another option for those who wish to evacuate, though that window will be closing soon.

“The Key West International Airport is open until about 5 o’clock this afternoon,” School said. “There’s a couple more Delta flights that are leaving today heading up to Atlanta and I know the first Delta flight out this morning was not full.”

Comments (4)
  1. You have a typo in the sentence “Residents across the Florida Keys need to need evacuation orders and get off the island chain.”

  2. The gas supply situation is described as “changing on an hourly bases” by Gastesi. Either the word bases needs to have sic after it to recognize the written text used the incorrect word or you need to edit the quote with the proper “basis”

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