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KEY WEST (CBSMiami) – Evacuation buses began rolling at noon in Key West to bring residents to a shelter at Florida International University.

The last evacuation bus left just after 6 p.m. The county will continue running buses Friday to the shelter, but Saturday remains unclear at this point.

Monroe County’s pet-friendly shelter, the E. Darwin Fuchs Pavilion at the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds and Exposition, will open at 5 p.m. Pet owners should bring the pet’s food, medications and vaccination records.

All residents of a the Florida Keys are under a mandatory evacuation order as Monroe County braces for potentially catastrophic Hurricane Irma.

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. “It would be a bad decision for people not to continue to observe the mandatory evacuation.”

Many Key West business owners spent Wednesday boarding up their shops.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. This is the first time I saw people really very afraid,” said business owner Carlos Betancur. “I’m leaving too, I just don’t know where yet.”

Zafer Amraya has been busy for the last two days boarding up buildings.

“Already now eight and then I go back to Miami beach and have almost 10,” he said.

The sounds of drills and saws are taking the place of live music on Duval Street. The normally busy entertainment district is deserted. Up to 25-thousand people have left the Keys already. Some are still deciding.

“We’re still monitoring what’s going on. We have a decision point that’s going to be around 2 a.m. Friday morning,” said Glenn Anderson.

County officials have said if you don’t heed evacuation warnings, you’re on your own.

“If you stay and think you’re a tough guy, then you’re on your own. This is a nasty storm, potentially a very dangerous storm and we can’t go out and risk the lives of our first responders because of your irresponsibility,” said county administrator Roman Gastesi.

The Keys hospitals will be closed in preparation for the storm.

• Fishermen’s Hospital in Marathon closed at 7 a.m. on Thursday.

• Mariners Hospital in Tavernier is closing at 7 p.m. Thursday.

• Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West is closing on 7 a.m. Friday

Wednesday night 13 patients of the Lower Keys Medical Center were loaded onto a C-130 transport plane and flown to Alabama.

The U.S. Postal Service has closed it operations and suspended mail delivery and pick up in the Keys through Monday.

Tourist who left on Wednesday under a mandatory evacuation order found trouble finding gas. Either the stations were already closed or they were out of gas. The state and FEMA has promised there will be enough gas. Stations that remained open with gas had long lines with waits of more than a half an hour.

Since flooding and storm surge are primary concerns, some people have parked their cars near bridges on the Overseas Highway because its the highest ground on the islands.


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