(MIAMI) — As Hurricane Irma moves over the Caribbean and takes aim at Florida, Gov. Rick Scott warned that the “massive storm” could be more treacherous than Hurricane Andrew, which devastated the Sunshine State 25 years ago.
“I want everybody to understand the importance of this. This is bigger than Andrew,” Scott said Wednesday in an interview from Tallahassee with ABC News’ Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts. “This could be worse.”
Scott, who declared a statewide emergency earlier this week, urged Floridians to be “aggressive” in preparing for the storm because it’s still unclear where Irma, currently a Category 5 storm, will impact. Possible targets are Ft. Meyers, Naples and Miami, the governor said.
“We don’t know exactly where this is going to hit,” he said. “It sure looks like it’s going to bear down right in the middle of Florida.”
On Wednesday night, Scott announced the activation of 1,000 members of the Florida Air and Army National Guard to support with planning, logistics and operations in preparation for potential impacts from Hurricane Irma. All remaining 6,000 National Guard members will be reporting for duty no later than Friday morning. Additional guard members will continue to be activated as needed.
The Florida National Guard has 1,000 high-water vehicles, 13 helicopters, 17 boats and more than 700 generators on standby, Scott’s office said. The Florida National Guard is also coordinating with the National Guard Bureau to identify approximately 30,000 troops, 4,000 trucks, 100 helicopters and air evacuation crews that are standing by for Hurricane Irma support if needed.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has more than 200 officers standing by for the first wave of response based on potential storm impacts, Scott’s office said Wednesday night. Thirty teams with supporting resources such as trucks, coastal and river patrol boats, an ATV and two shallow draft boats are preparing for evacuation support, search-and-rescue missions or any additional needs.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has established 18 emergency response teams for deployment to impacted areas and seven logistics and planning teams. FDLE has also secured additional fuel for law enforcement.
Irma currently has sustained winds of 185 mph, with gusts topping 200 mph. The storm is forecast to move north of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Wednesday afternoon, bringing strong winds and heavy rain but not directly hitting the islands. The storm will be approaching mainland Florida and the Keys by Sunday morning.
Florida officials are working to ensure retailers around the state are stocked up on food, water and gas as the storm approaches.
“We don’t see any widespread shortages, and we don’t believe that we’re going to have them right now,” Scott said on Good Morning America Thursday morning. “I’m asking everybody as you get prepared — three days of water per person, three days of food. Take enough, but take only what you need. Don’t take more.”
As the hurricane inches closer to Florida, Scott said there will be more mandatory evacuation orders issued around the state. The governor urged Floridians to heed these warnings.
“We can rebuild your home. We can’t rebuild your life,” he said. “Prepare and take care of your family.”
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