Hurricane Irma is once again a Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph, according to the 2 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
Irma was moving west at 12 mph and has made landfall on the northern coast of Cuba. The forecast track has shifted slightly west once again, according to Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure, heightening anxiety along the gulf coast of Florida.
Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement late Friday, urging Floridians in evacuation zones from Manatee County southward to prepare to locate to the nearest shelter.
“As we know, the direction of storms like Hurricane Irma can change in an instant, and the latest forecast track has put the storm heading directly up Florida’s west coast,” Scott said in the press release. “This storm is life-threatening and an imminent threat to our state. Not following evacuation orders could cost you your life. Evacuations are in place along the coast from Manatee County to Collier County and everyone must listen to their local officials and get out now.
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“If you do not leave by noon tomorrow, you need to be prepared to get to the closest available shelter. Do not stay on the road — find the closest available shelter to your home and go there immediately. After noon (Saturday), it will not be safe for anyone in these coastal counties along the west coast to travel and it will not be safe for the law enforcement officers who will need to rescue you.
“Also, as I said earlier today, if you live in an evacuation zone in Palm Beach, Broward, or Miami-Dade, you need to leave before midnight tonight. If you are in the Florida Keys, get out right now. The Division of Emergency Management is working with counties nonstop to open more shelters, and shelters are available in every county except Monroe. I cannot be more clear — this storm is unlike anything our state has seen and Floridians must take action to stay safe. Do not risk your life or the life of your loved ones.”
Scott will hold a Hurricane Irma briefing at 9:15 a.m. Saturday at the Sarasota County Emergency Operations Center.