As Hurricane Irma moves over the Caribbean and takes aim at Florida, Gov. Rick Scott warned 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.”
At a press conference Thursday, Scott said Irma could bring “life threatening” damage to Florida and he urged residents on the state’s east and west coasts to be prepared to evacuate and to heed warnings from local officials, saying a storm surge could bring water levels up to 10 feet above ground.
“This could impact any part of our state,” Scott told reporters. “We’ll be doing evacuations, but everybody’s got to listen.”
Scott said he expects additional evacuation orders will be given once the storm gets closer.
Mandatory evacuations have already been ordered for parts of several Florida counties, including Brevard County, Broward County, Indian River County, Lee County, Martin County, Monroe County, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, St. John’s County. Most of the mandatory evacuation zones were issued for barrier islands, coastal areas and for those living in mobile homes.
As of Thursday afternoon, about 650,000 people had been asked to evacuate Miami-Dade County alone, the southeastern-most county on the U.S. mainland with more than 2.7 million residents.
An estimated 1.2 Floridians statewide have been asked to evacuate.
Meanwhile, Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio on Thursday declared a state of emergency for the town and ordered a mandatory evacuation for the entire island, where President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago resort is located.
ABC News estimates a total of around 1 million Floridians have been asked to evacuate. Voluntary evacuations have also been issued for certain regions.
The National Hurricane Center projects Irma will be near the central Bahamas by Friday and then make landfall in south Florida, near Miami, on Sunday morning as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing high winds, abundant rainfall and potentially dangerous storm surge.