MIAMI BEACH (CBMiami) – The mayor and emergency managers have spoken and the people of Miami Beach listened.
Thousands packed what they needed and evacuated.
Friday morning the normally busy South Beach was a virtual ghost town, the businesses and hotels along Ocean Drive shuttered or boarded up for the storm.
Mayor Philip Levine has urged everyone in the city to leave, fearing dangerous storm surge will inundate the barrier island.
“I feel somewhat relieved that people have heeded our warning to get off the beach. What you see now is the calm before the storm. We just want to make sure that people understand that they need to leave Miami Beach. This is not the place to be for historically strong hurricanes like Irma,” he said.
Levine said some of the hotels along the beach have been there since the 1920s and have been through a lot of storms. But this one may leave its mark.
“That’s not to say that this storm is something so aggressive and powerful that it may do some damage. It will do major damage. We’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” he said.
The mayor said it’s quite probable that the storm surge will drive the sea up onto Ocean Drive and could breach some of the hotels.
As for the surge, the mayor said they have done everything to keep water at low levels but it won’t be enough.
“We’ve brought in generators. We’ve brought in portable pumps. We have pumps in our roads ..it’s no match for a hurricane. Our system is designed for sea level rise and for of course moderate rain or combination. Not only is it not designed for a hurricane, it’s certainly not designed for a hurricane of this historical magnitude,” said Mayor Levine.
The mayor said if residents are planning to ride it out, they may want to rethink that idea.
“The message is if you are still here, please take today to leave as soon as you can. Go to one of our shelters in Miami-Dade County. We have buses and trolleys that will take you to the bus stop. That’s the most important thing, that’s the message we are telling people right now,” he said.
Miami-Dade will open 13 additional shelters on Friday to accommodate the overwhelming demand. Miami-Dade Transit buses began providing service to shelters at 7 a.m. They will run until 10 p.m.
The mayor said people who live in highrises hoping to stay are finding that won’t be the case. Building managers are turning off the water, air conditioning and power to encourage people to leave and seek shelter on the mainland.
“We just want to make sure that people understand that you need to leave Miami Beach,” said Mayor Levine.
People who do plan to stay should know that Miami Beach will not be putting their first responders out during the storm to assist those in trouble.
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