Irma evacuations under way in Broward as emergency shelters open

Mandatory evacuations continued Thursday in coastal areas of Broward County, as residents began flowing into one of 14 emergency shelters that were open and operational eahd of Hurricane Irma.

At a briefing at the county’s emergency operations center, Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief stressed that shelters should be considered a last resort for those who have no family or friends outside evacuation zones.

The county’s mandatory evacuation covers all those who live or operate businesses west of U.S. Route 1 (Federal Highway), as well as all mobile home residents.

“We are expecting life-threatening water levels in the next two days…if you are in an evacuation zone and asked to evacuate, please do so, as emergency personnel will not be able to help you once the hurricane arrives,” she said.

Those heading to shelters should bring bedding, snacks, water, medication and other items for personal comfort, she said. Shelters are listed here.

Bridges on barrier islands between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal will be locked down by 8 p.m. Friday, and no boats requiring openings will be able leave after the lockdown.

County government has already received more than 6,000 calls to its emergency hotline, which is open 24 hours to answer questions: Dial 311 or 954-831-4000.

Sheriff Scott Israel said national guard troops have been assigned to Broward, and one of their duties will be to help escort gas tankers to and from Port Everglades, where the cargo is delivered. County officials say there is enough gas, but that stations have been unable to keep up with the demand.

Israel urged residents to call 911 only in an emergency.

Hundreds of animals in Broward’s animal shelters have been safely transported out of state, officials said.

“This storm is fast, it’s powerful, it’s devastating, and it’s already claimed lives in the Caribbean,’” Israel said.