KEY WEST, FLA. (WSVN) - At a press conference held at City Hall in Key West, Monroe County officials warned that the clock is ticking for residents to evacuate in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
“This is a big, dangerous storm — something that has never been seen before in the Atlantic. It’s headed our way,” said Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi. “The main message is: Leave now. You’ve got time.”
Officials said residents should flee because the aftermath of the hurricane could be just as dangerous as the storm itself.
“We have 42 bridges that connects Key West to the rest of the mainland. If one of those bridges go out, it’ll be a long time before we get any services back down here,” said Key West Mayor Craig Cates.
Once the storm passes, the bridges connecting the Florida Keys will be closed down while officials inspect them for damage.
“Over in those islands, they don’t have 42 bridges connecting them to the mainland like we do,” he said. “If some of those bridges go down, we will be disconnected from the mainland and our supplies, so you’ll have no power, no water, and it will be a very dangerous situation to be in, so please leave now while you have a chance.”
Despite numerous warnings, some residents remained hesitant to leave.
“We’re still giving it until midnight tonight before we make a decision,” said one resident.
Another resident had already made his decision regarding the hurricane.
“I’m going to stay for the storm,” he said.
Preparations for the storm have been made even more difficult due to a shortage of gas in the Keys.
At the Southernmost Shell in Key West, the gas supply dwindled as everyone tried to keep calm.
“I’ve been here all my life. You know, this is probably the worst storm that we’ve been here with, but we’ll make it through,” said one resident stopping for fuel.
The station finally ran out of gas just before 5 p.m., Thursday. The owner tried to get a truck out Friday, but there was no luck.
“I know that the governor has been pushing some fuel down,” said Gastesi. “Florida Highway Patrol came down with them. That’s the best we can do. There’s some gas stations that are also closing because they’re also evacuating their staff, so we have, I think, four or five, is last time I heard, and we’re going to push that list out.”
While thousands have gassed up their cars to flee the Keys, some have chosen to stay behind to lend a helping hand.
Key West local Raymond Bloodworth has yet to evacuate in order to keep the CVS store he manages open for as long as possible.
“We’ve got a lot of people coming in. We’re staying open for the locals who take care of the locals. People are picking up their last minute things,” he said. “A lot of the convenience stores have closed down, but we’re staying open because we still have water. We’re going to help do what we can for the local people because they need it, and we’re proud to do that.”
Officials said the last Key West Transit evacuation bus is leaving Key West on Friday at 5 p.m. today. Riders will be transferred at the Transit Center on Stock Island, and the buses will proceed to the hurricane shelter at Florida International University, picking up riders along U.S. 1. There will be no buses on Saturday.
Those who have evacuated the Keys will not be able to return until after the connecting bridges have been inspected and, if needed, repaired.
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