When Hurricane Irma’s tropical winds arrive, first responders will hunker down

The models all agree that Hurricane Irma will strike South Florida. And though no one can pinpoint exactly where the ferocious storm will make landfall, one thing is certain: Police, fire and emergency medical response crews will not come to save or protect you once tropical storm conditions arrive.

“We will not go out. We will protect our employees and hunker down,” said Miami Beach police chief Dan Oates.

Almost all of South Florida’s coastline is now under mandatory evacuation orders, with emergency managers urging coastal-area residents from the Florida Keys to Homestead, Key Biscayne, Miami Beach and north into Broward County to find a safe space inland.

The National Weather Service predicts tropical storm-force winds will kick up Saturday evening and continue into Monday. Tropical storm force winds begin at 39 miles per hour.

But weather experts say the most dangerous part of a hurricane is the water, not the wind. The storm surge in some places could rise as high six to 12 feet above ground, the National Hurricane Center said.

Especially vulnerable areas in Miami-Dade include South Dade, Key Biscayne and Miami Beach.

“After a certain time, when winds reach tropical storm force, emergency personnel will be advised to seek shelter,” said Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Robin Pinkard.

Miami Beach residents, Mayor Philip Levine warned, need to leave as soon as possible. Saturday morning may be too late. The Beach suffers damaging floods during a full moon and high tide.

With the expected storm surge, a good portion of Miami Beach could be under water.

Levine, on CNN Friday morning, said buses will be rolling through the city Friday for anyone wishing to leave who may not have a mode of transportation.

“There is no pump that can handle a storm surge,” said Levine. “Leave Miami Beach. There’s no reason to stay. We will take you to a shelter.”