Florida National Guard to Be Ready for Hurricane Irma
The National Hurricane Center said Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Sept. 5 activated 100 members of the Florida Air and Army National Guard to support with planning, logistics, and operations in preparation for potential impacts from Hurricane Irma, which strengthened to a category 5 storm that day. Scott's news release said the 100 activated personnel will be stationed across the state and will advise him on available and needed resources to ensure communities are prepared.
Evacuation orders for the Florida Keys were issued later in the day, and Miami-Dade County evacuations were set to begin Sept. 6.
Scott also ordered that all 7,000 National Guard members report for duty Friday morning, Sept. 8; on Sept. 4 he had issued Executive Order 17-235, which declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties in the state and allowed for the immediate activation of National Guard members.
The State Emergency Operations Center has been activated to level one, which is a full-scale, 24-hours-a-day activation.
Later in the day, a newer release said 13 helicopters and more than 1,000 tactical high-wheeled trucks are on standby; Florida has identified air assets and resources from the North Carolina National Guard and is coordinating with nearby states to assist with evacuations from the Florida Keys; and the Florida National Guard is 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 is preparing search-and-rescue teams for potential deployment; all teams that were deployed to Texas have since returned or were in the process of returning; and the Florida Highway Patrol is monitoring road and traffic conditions to ensure roadways are clear and working with the Division of Emergency Management to ensure consistent messaging is provided statewide. The Florida Department of Transportation is holding teleconferences with districts and agency partners such as the Army Corps of Engineers, Water Management Districts, and Federal Highway Administration to ensure infrastructure needs are met.
Sccott also directed the FDOT to suspend tolls across the entire state in preparation for Hurricane Irma, in order to it easier to access important hurricane supplies and quickly and safely evacuate if necessary.
The National Hurricane Center's 2 p.m. bulletin on the hurricane said it was moving toward the west near 14 mph and was expected to turn toward the west-northwest later on Sept. 5, with the center of the storm expected to move over portions of the northern Leeward Islands by early Wednesday. Reports from an Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicated maximum sustained winds were near 185 mph with higher gusts, according to the bulletin: "Irma is an extremely dangerous category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days."
"Today I am activating 100 members of the Florida Air and Army National Guard to immediately begin assisting with ongoing Hurricane Irma preparation. Per my direction, they will be stationed throughout the state," Scott said Sept. 5. "I have also directed all 7,000 guard members to report for duty this Friday, however, if resources are needed before then, I stand ready to activate as many guard members needed to support our aggressive preparedness actions. With Hurricane Irma now a category 5 storm, we must do all we can to prepare our families and communities for any potential impact from this major weather event. We do not know the exact path of this storm, but weather can change in an instant and while we hope for the best, we must prepare for the worst."
The governor already had asked President Donald J. Trump to declare a pre-landfall emergency for the state of Florida, an act that would provide resources and assistance from the federal government and would free up funding sources for emergency protective measures such as shoring up beach dunes, building emergency berms, and planning for potential evacuations, according to a news release from his office.