What State, Federal Officials Are Saying on the Cusp of Irma’s Lethal Landfall

Final warnings issued and last preparations made as destructive hurricane set to reach Florida

As Floridians brace for Hurricane Irma’s landfall on Sunday, the state’s officials and lawmakers feverishly worked to prepare their state as fully as possible for the second major natural disaster to occur on President Donald Trump’s watch.

Just over a week after Hurricane Harvey hit southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana, Irma barreled across the Caribbean and Cuba on its way to Florida. Although Irma was downgraded from a Category 5 hurricane to a Category 3 hurricane overnight, it is expected to strengthen again just before striking Florida.

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“If you’re in an evacuation zone, you’ve got to go,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said Saturday at a news conference. “This is the most catastrophic storm the state has ever seen.”

“Remember, we can rebuild your house, you can get your possessions again, but we can’t rebuild your life and we can’t rebuild your family,” the governor added. “Evacuate now. Not tonight, not in an hour, you need to go right now.”

Prior to Harvey’s strike in southeastern Texas, residents in the storm’s path weren’t officially ordered to evacuate, which led some to question the decision when the record-setting storm proved to be larger than officials anticipated. But the Florida Division of Emergency Management said Saturday that approximately 6.3 million Floridians had either mandatorily or voluntarily evacuated in preparation for the hurricane’s weekend strike.

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In addition, state, local and federal officials have been quite vocal in repeatedly urging resilient Floridians who are tempted to try riding out the storm to take cover and evacuate.

“This will cover your house. If you’ve ever watched how storm surges work, it flows in fast, very fast, and then it flows out. You will not survive all this storm surge,” Scott said during a press conference.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Saturday at a press conference, also issued some dire warnings for Floridians refusing to evacuate from the hurricane’s path.

“Don’t be the guy that gets killed by the tree, all right?” Rubio warned. “Every year, we have it — the guy that’s standing around, the tree falls on their head. Don’t be the guy or gal that gets killed by the tree.”

For good measure, Rubio added that now would be a good time for evacuees to “catch up on ‘Games of Throne,’ whatever it’s called, I haven’t watched it myself,” if they are already in a safe place. Rubio attempted to refer to HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones.”

Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), the senior deputy majority whip, opted to hop on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Hunter WP-3 aircraft Friday to travel through Hurricane Irma with meteorologists on a data-collection venture.

“I took this flight on the NOAA Hurricane Hunter so I could better understand the process behind bringing Floridians and all Americans accurate and up-to-date weather forecasts when they need it most,” Ross said in a statement Friday. “On this flight, I witnessed first-hand the selflessness and dedication of the NOAA employees who risk their lives to gather this lifesaving information.”

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“We must remain vigilant and prepared,” the congressman added as he thanked state, federal and local officials for their efforts thus far. “I cannot stress enough the importance of staying informed, obeying evacuation orders, and preparing our homes and families for this hurricane. Protecting lives is our first and only focus at this moment.”

For his own part, Trump promised, in his weekly address Friday, that his administration “is working closely with our state and local partners to help save lives, protect families, and assist those in need.”

“This is a storm of absolutely historic destructive potential. I ask everyone in the storm’s path to be vigilant, and to heed all recommendations from government officials and law enforcement,” Trump said. “Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our people. We are doing everything we can to help with disaster preparations and, when the time comes, we will restore, recover and rebuild — together, as Americans.”

Pointing to the deep divisions the country faced after a tumultuous 2016 and the first several months of 2017, the president asked to the country to come together and unify in support of Floridians affected by Irma and Texans and Louisianians affected by Harvey.

“In times such as these, we see the strength and the resolve of the American spirit — and we see the kindness and courage of our people,” he said. “With gratitude for our first responders, and prayers for those in the storm’s path, America stands united — and I mean totally united. From Texas to Louisiana, from Florida to Puerto Rico, and always the U.S. Virgin Islands, and everywhere in between that has been affected by these terrible storms: We will endure and come back stronger than ever before.”

Trump approved Florida’s emergency declaration request Tuesday, enabling Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) resources to be allocated to providing disaster relief for the state.

Irma is Trump’s second test in exhibiting his national leadership in handling natural disasters. Although many liberals accused Trump of lacking “compassion” and “empathy” in dealing with Harvey, the president visited Texas twice last week, and local officials were filled with nothing but praise for his efforts and his concern. On his first trip to Texas, Trump spent time with state and local officials. On his second trip, the president met with Harvey’s victims in person and spent time interacting with them at a shelter.

(photo credit, homepage and article images: NASA)

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