6.5M evacuated, 70K in shelters; Fla. gov. 'this is clearly a life-threatening situation'
Hours before Hurricane Irma is expected to hit the Florida Keys and move northwest, Gov. Rick Scott held a press conference urging residents ordered to evacuate to listen to authorities.
"This is clearly a life threatening situation," Scott said of the anticipated storm surge, high winds and heavy rainfall. "If you have been ordered to evacuate you need to leave, now. This is your last chance to make a good decision."
As of early Saturday evening, more than 6.5 million Floridians had been ordered to evacuate.
There are more than 385 shelters are open in every county that is in the path of Hurricane Irma, and app[roximately 70,000 Floridians using those services.
"Everyone in Florida needs to find a safe place to go," Gov. Scott emphasized. Additional shelters will be opening on Saturday night.
The intense winds have already resulted in at least 76,000 people losing power. That number is expected to grow as Irma moves closer. It is not clear how quickly the state will be able to respond to restore power.
While expecting the worst, state authorities are confident in their "aggressive" preparations for the storm.
Search and rescue missions are already staged. The U.S. Coast Guard and Florida National Guard are deployed to provide assistance.
Additionally, emergency food and water have been prepositioned to be dispersed to impacted areas.