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KEY WEST (CBSMiami) – Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi has a message for anyone left in the Keys: “Get out.”
“Hurricane Irma is a very strong, very dangerous storm that has life-threatening winds and even scarier storm surge potential,” he said. “Even the Coast Guard is evacuating all of its personnel. Please evacuate.”
Emergency officials in the Keys have notified Florida Gov. Rick Scott that first responders will evacuate the Keys Saturday morning.
Gastesi hopes the governor can get to the holdouts to change their minds.
“We keep trying,” Gastesi said. “There is still a small window for people to get out of the Keys before the tropical storm force winds begin tomorrow around noon.”
Officials said the emergency operations center will close because they will not risk lives for this storm.
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay is relocating 460 prisoners at the Stock Island Detention Center, which is near Key West. He said he said he couldn’t wait until the early morning to make the decision.
For those who chose to leave on Friday, finding fuel was not easy. In Key West and Marathon there were less than a handful of gas stations open.
Scott Fricke was grateful to find one and fill up. He, his girlfriend and their child were evacuating in a rented U-Haul.
“We took everything we could that we didn’t want to lose and we’re getting out. We’ve been here in the 90’s hurricane and I donk’t want to be here again,” said.
Gastesi said those who decide to stay are on their own.
“Once a dangerous storm starts, don’t dial 911 during it because nobody is going to answer,” he said.
Not everyone, however, has heeded the message to leave.
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Dennis Balladares spent the morning finishing boarding up his business. He said when he was done he and his family were going to a house in Duck Key to ride out the storm. He realizes they will be on their own and if he calls for help, no one will answer.
“We know that. We got famiy, I got a son and daugther and everybody, that’s the way it is man,” he said.
During the latest Monroe County Emergency Management briefing the news from National Weather Service Key West meteorologist Jon Rizzo was not good.
He said a portion of the Keys could see a storm surge of 5 to 10 feet and life threatening winds of more than 110 mph are possible through most of the Keys. Ocean Reef now has a 56 percent chance of hurricane force winds and the percentages continue to rise as the storm gets closer.
Hurricane Irma, now a Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph, is especially worrisome because it is so large, with hurricane force winds spanning more than 100 miles.
The Florida Keys are under a Hurricane Warning and a Surge Warning.
Tropical force winds are expected to hit the Keys late Saturday morning to early Saturday afternoon. Core hurricane force winds could hit the Keys Saturday evening into Sunday morning.
Friday morning buses once again picked people up in Key West, and at stops along U.S.1, to take them to Monroe County’s two shelters in Miami-Dade County: FIU and the pet-friendly E. Darwin Fuchs Pavilion at the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds and Exposition.
About 200 people were transported on these evacuation buses on Thursday.
The Port of Key West has closed and the Snake Creek Drawbridge in Islamorada has been locked.
Acquiring gas deliveries has been a top priority, and deliveries are expected to five gas stations throughout the Keys on Friday.
The last commercial flight departed Key West International Airport on Thursday night.