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Diminished Irma Storm Surge Is Still 'Life-Threatening', Say Miami-Dade Authorities

Eric Gay
AP via Miami Herald
Residents in Daytona Beach, Fla., deal with storm surge last October during Hurricane Matthew.

Two days ago – when Hurricane Irma was forecast to hit Miami directly as a Category 5 storm – Miami-Dade County was staring at a potential storm surge of 10 feet. Now that Irma’s path has shifted west to Florida’s Gulf coast, the surge is expected to be half that.

But Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is warning that’s still enough to cause not just dangerous flooding but drowning – especially since South Florida may well experience the equivalent of Category 1 or 2 hurricane winds when Irma arrives early Sunday.

At the Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center, the mayor told evacuated residents to stay evacuated.

“The new models show that there is a potential for a 4-to-6-foot storm surge to hit South Dade once basically the storm kind of passes us, when we’re now getting circulation from the southeast," Gimenez said.

"And so those folks that live in that area: please, you were told to evacuate, do not come back because there could be some devastating flooding due to a 4-to-6-foot-high wall of water coming from the ocean... Four-to-6 feet? We consider it to be life-threatening.”

Gimenez also said that, even though Palm Beach and Broward Counties (and a number of Miami-Dade municipalities) have ordered curfews for Saturday night, he did not call one because – as weather conditions become more dangerous – he did not want to put Miami-Dade County law enforcement in harm’s way to enforce it.

As of Saturday evening there are almost 30,000 evacuees settled into 42 Miami-Dade hurricane shelters. Sixteen of those are already full to capacity.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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