Gov. Rick Scott says Floridians who need to evacuate due to Hurricane Irma should leave immediately, creating a sense of urgency as Hurricane Irma inches its way towards Florida.
Scott urged Floridians to take the “life-threatening” storm very seriously at a press conference Wednesday.
"Do not sit and wait for this storm to come," Scott said. "Get out now."
Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, is causing gas shortages as hundreds of thousands of Floridians head to gas stations, filling up on supplies in preparation for the storm, which is likely to cause strong winds, torrential downpours and catastrophic damage should it hit Florida.
Gov. Rick Scott said the state was working to get gasoline to areas experiencing shortages in high-trafficked places like Orlando, Miami and Tampa.
The governor said Wednesday he had been in contact with Govs. Kay Ivey and Nathan Deal of Alabama and Georgia, working with the two bordering states to waive regulations to ensure gas trucks can get to Florida to assist with Hurricane Irma preparations.
"We're doing everything to get fuel to you as quickly as possible,” Scott said in the Florida Keys.
A sense of urgency has washed over Florida in recent days as Hurricane Irma appears more and more like to impact the Sunshine State next week.
Many areas like the Florida Keys have already begun evacuating residents and tourists, sending them to higher ground. Around 25,000 people had evacuated the Keys and officials in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties advised residents in evacuation zones to move quickly and head out while there was still time to do so.
According to an 11 a.m. forecast from the National Hurricane Center, Irma is headed north-northwest and was expected to make its way to Puerto Rico by Wednesday afternoon.
The overall path of the storm is not certain, though many forecasts foresee Florida taking a hit in some way. South Florida is particularly vulnerable
The storm has already walloped parts of the Caribbean, making a direct hit in St. Martin and Anguilla.
The governor announced a series of hurricane preparedness measures Florida would be undertaking in preparation for the storm, from monitoring fuel supplies to coordinating with hospitals on evacuation needs.
Scott declared a State of Emergency for all 67 counties in Florida and asked President Donald Trump to issue a pre-landfall emergency for the state in preparation for the hurricane.
The governor announced nearly 8,000 National Guard members would be reporting for duty Friday morning, with 13 helicopters and more than 1,000 high-wheeled trucks on standby, lying in wait as Irma threatens to knock down power lines, destroy homes and cause heavy flooding throughout the state.
Scott also suspended all tolls on Florida roads to keep traffic flowing as the storm slowly crept its way towards the Sunshine State.
“Ensuring the safety of Florida families and visitors is our top priority and suspending tolls statewide will help people quickly evacuate and make it easier for all Floridians to access important hurricane supplies to ensure they are fully prepared,” Scott said in a statement.
Many school districts will shut down Thursday and Friday in preparation for the storm. State offices will also be closed Friday.
U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., asked Congress Wednesday to add more money for Hurricane Irma in a $7.85 billion aid package for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
“Hurricane Irma is now one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean,” they wrote in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “This massive Category Five storm has the potential to cause catastrophic destruction throughout the state and we are deeply concerned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will not have the resources it needs to respond if Congress doesn’t act soon.”
The next update from the National Hurricane Center will be at 5 p.m. EST.