‘It’s Almost Like Suicide’: Florida Keys Official Warns Those Who Stayed

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KEY WEST (CBSMiami) — Early Saturday morning, the mostly popular Duval Street in Key West was desolate as Hurricane Irma moved closer to South Florida.

In a last ditch effort Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi urged Florida Keys residents who stayed behind to leave.

“If you lose your life like this, it’s almost like suicide. Why would you do something like this when you could easily leave,” he said.

Some residents, ordered to evacuate earlier this week, decided overnight to make the drive and spare themselves the experience of a life-threatening Category 4 hurricane – some not knowing if they’ll find fuel to finish the drive up.

“You get folks that are very passionate about their islands and they’re very passionate about their homes and they see the size of the storm, they see the strength of the storm and obviously it’s time to go,” said Gastesi.

To him, the most frustrating part is the people who stayed.

“Some desperate folks later on that don’t have a way to go and those are going to be the frustrating ones because what do we do knowing that they’re down there and they cant’t leave and they waited to the last minute. That’s going to hurt later on,” said Gastesi.

He said the folks who left are doing the right thing.

“We need to stay alive so we can rebuild our community,” said Gastesi who said he is heading North to stay away from the storm.

His worst fear about the hurricane is to have the same images in Key West as those that have been coming out of the Caribbean islands hit by the storm.

“This storm has been very big. It’s been very powerful since day one and the thought that that could happen here in the next day or two is frightening. It’s just outright frightening,” said Gastesi.

Stock Island Detention Center was making plans to move more than 400 prisoners, according to Gastesi. This as the police have already been asked to leave the area.

For those who stayed in the Florida Keys, there are last resort shelters – but they’re mainly four walls and no staff.

“Find a corner. Find a stairwell. Find some nice little concrete corner somewhere. This is your last resort to keep yourself alive,” said Gastesi.

The centers of last refuge include:

  • Coral Shores HS; 89951 Overseas Hwy; Plantation Key FL 33036 (MM89.9 ocean side)
  • Marathon HS; 350 Sombrero Road; Marathon, FL 33050 (MM 50 ocean side)
  • Sugarloaf School; 225 Crane Blvd.; Sugarloaf Key, FL (MM 19 gulf side)
  • Key West HS; 2100 Flagler Ave.; Key West, FL 33040 (MM 2)

The sites will not have any services available and they’ll only be open until tropical storm force winds die down.

As a final – and mostly repeated plea – Gastesi has a message for those who stayed.

“Come back and we can rebuild. Just, please leave. Please leave,” said Gastesi. “If you’re in the Keys, please leave.”

More from Giovanna Maselli
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