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Tens of thousands of people living near the ocean and the bay in Miami-Dade spent this week pondering one of the most ominous questions that Miami can produce: Am I supposed to evacuate my home before a hurricane strikes?
To sort through some of the confusion, we’re answering questions on hurricane evacuations. It’s a running list. Send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to get them answered.
Q: What’s the DEAL with evacuations in Miami-Dade? I’ve heard different things.
As of 2 p.m. on Thursday, more than 680,000 people in Miami-Dade are under evacuation orders. That includes all mobile-home residents, as well as everyone in zone A and B, plus parts of C. That’s basically every barrier island, and almost everyone living east of U.S. 1 and Biscayne Boulevard. There are some exceptions, and some areas west of those thoroughfares.
Q: How am I supposed to know what zone I am in?
There is a color-coded map you can eyeball. And a pretty helpful county website that lets you search by address, which will tell you what zone you’re in. Another one tells you whether to evacuate, by address.
Q: I’m in a zone that the county says should evacuate. Where am I supposed to go?
That’s up to you. Government officials say the best option is to stay with friends or family who live farther inland and face less of a risk of having to evacuate themselves. That way, you’re not clogging up the roads very long and you’re close to home once the storm passes. The county has also opened eight shelters — including one that will accept pets — where you can ride out the storm. Hotels are an option, but they’re mostly full, according to reservation sites.
Q: Should I just leave Miami-Dade until the storm hits?
Many have. Here are two questions for you:
First: Can you purchase enough gas to get where you are going? With Monroe and Broward counties already evacuating thousands of residents, and Irma threatening cities on both coasts, expect a surge of people clogging the roads to get somewhere else. Given the rush on gas stations, you may not be able to fill up before you get to your destination.
Second: Are you confident you can get somewhere else that will not be hit by Irma? The projected path of the storm puts most of the East Coast of the state in danger, but there are some scenarios that take it to the west. It’s much easier to deal with a hurricane in your home base than as a tourist.
Q: What about just flying somewhere else?
That window may have already closed. Airlines are already canceling flights, and American — the largest carrier at Miami International Airport — won’t be flying out of Miami after 3:49 p.m. Friday.
Q: Should I stop my hurricane preparations to evacuate?
Almost certainly not. The storm is not expected to bring dangerous winds until Saturday, and government leaders on Thursday urged residents to finish their preparations by sunset Friday. That should give you enough time to get to a shelter or a safer place in Miami-Dade. “If they plan on evacuating, secure their property first,” said Michael Hernández, communications director for Miami-Dade. “And do evacuate soon.”
Q: Do I have to evacuate?
There is no sanction or punishment for not complying with an evacuation order. County officials acknowledge the orders are basically voluntary, even though they’re announced as “mandatory.” But they’re announced to remove people from areas at risk of being inundated by storm surge during Irma. Carlos Gimenez, Miami-Dade’s mayor, is warning residents that if they don’t heed evacuation orders, they could be stranded at home without fire, police or other rescue services able to reach them.
Q: I don’t remember evacuating before. Why now?
This is by far the most serious storm to threaten South Florida since Andrew in 1992, and it could be worse. With more advanced storm-surge models, officials have a better ability to predict what areas may be underwater after a hurricane. This is believed to be the largest evacuation in Miami-Dade’s history.
Q: If I go to a shelter, what do I need?
You should bring close to what you would have at home for a storm. That’s three days worth of food and water and medicine. (If you’re worried Irma will leave your home uninhabitable, bring seven days worth.) And bring blankets and pillows. The Red Cross, which runs the county shelters, does not provide cots during the storm. “A shelter is a safe place to stay,” said Roberto Baltodano, spokesman for the South Florida division of the Red Cross. “This is going to be an empty room.”
Q: Where are the shelters in Miami-Dade?
▪ Miami Carol City Senior, 3301 Miami Gardens Dr., Miami Gardens
▪ Miami Central Senior, 1781 NW 95th St., Miami
▪ North Miami Senior, 13110 NE Eighth Ave., North Miami
▪ TERRA Environmental, 11005 SW 84th St., Miami.
▪ North Miami Beach Senior High, 1247 NW 167th St., North Miami Beach
▪ South Miami Senior High, 6856 SW 53rd St., South Miami
▪ Felix Varela Senior High, 15255 SW 96th St., Miami (in the West Kendall area)
▪ The Miami-Dade County Fair and Exhibition, home to the Youth Fair at Tamiami Park, 10901 Coral Way, Miami. This shelter also accepts pets. Visitors should enter through Gate 2.