Get out and get out now, because Irma is here.
That was the message from Florida Gov. Rick Scott during a Saturday morning briefing with reporters and officials at the Sarasota County Emergency Operations Center.
“The storm is here. Hurricane Irma is now impacting our state. Southeast Florida is already experiencing tropical storm force winds,” Scott said.
He noted that 25,000 people have already lost power.
Scott warned residents that the threat of storm surge increased and could be as high as 6 to 12 feet.
“This will cover your house,” Scott said. “You will not survive all this storm surge. This is a life-threatening situation.”
He urged those who are in an evacuation zone to leave as soon as possible and those in Southwest Florida need to be on the road by noon or find shelter.
Officials estimated Friday that 5.6 million Floridians have been ordered to evacuate.
More than 8,000 evacuees have taken shelter in Manatee County schools dedicated as shelters, according to district officials. Some are already at capacity.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, also weighed in, noting that “a lot of people” have left Sarasota and Manatee counties to seek shelter.
Scott said there are shelters all over the state, more will open as needed, and he told everyone to find a safe place to go.
School buses, Scott said, are helping with evacuations.
Those who need help evacuating should call 1-800-342-3557.
The No. 1 priority, Scott continued, is the safety of residents. He asked everyone to make sure friends and neighbors who have not yet evacuated have a plan to get out.
However, Scott reminded residents that once the storm hits, first responders will not be able to venture into the storm to save those at risk.
“Your house can be replaced, your possessions can be replaced, your life cannot be replaced, your family cannot be replaced,” Scott said.
Scott also issued a plea for nurses to volunteer at special-needs shelters.
He said President Donald Trump and FEMA leaders have promised needed support for the state.
Buchanan said a $15 billion aid package was passed with resources for Texas and Florida, and those funds are on the way.
“We will have the resources to rebuild and rebuild quickly,” Buchanan said.