All 67 counties in Florida are under a state of emergency as forecasters keep a close eye on the course of Hurricane Irma, which reached Category 5 status overnight with winds of at least 175 mph.
Gov. Rick Scott issued the state of emergency declaration Monday afternoon.
“Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm and Florida must be prepared,” Scott said in a statement. “I have continued to be briefed by the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Hurricane Irma and current forecast models have Florida in Irma’s path – potentially impacting millions of Floridians.”
The latest forecasts project Irma to be on a more direct path toward South Florida with a possible landfall sometime this weekend.
Monroe County is scheduled to activate its emergency operations center at noon today to begin announcing evacuation plans in preparation for what is increasingly looking like a visit from Irma.
Scott ordered the state of emergency to ensure that local, state and federal governments are working together to ensure that resources are in place in preparation for Irma and whatever impact the storm might have on Florida.
“This state of emergency allows our emergency management officials to act swiftly in the best interest of Floridians without the burden of bureaucracy or red tape,” Scott added. “In Florida, we know that the best way to protect our families in severe weather is to have a plan. I urge all Floridians to remain vigilant and stay alert to local weather and news and visit FLGetAPlan.com today as we all prepare for Hurricane Irma.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is pulling its crews out of Texas where they were deployed last week to help flood victims in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Approximately 25 officers and support staff returned to Florida on Friday with the remaining 105 FWC personnel returning from Texas within the next day or so. They were scheduled to return prior to the governor’s emergency declaration.
“We’re trying to get them back and get them a little bit of rest and ready for Irma just in case Irma makes landfall on Florida turf,” said Col. Curtis Brown, the director of FWC’s law enforcement division. “With any hurricane we’re always prepared to respond and help and deploy. We have up 200 people ready to deploy now.”
In South Florida there have been reports of runs on grocery stores as residents stock up on food, water and other supplies.
Grocery and lumber stores started to see an increase in traffic on Monday with demand for hurricane supplies expected to grow as the week progresses.
The governor’s state of emergency automatically triggers Florida’s price gouging law. Attorney General Pam Bondi activated her office’s price gouging hotline.
“Floridians need to prepare now and they should not be inhibited by unlawful price increases on supplies necessary to brace for a major hurricane strike—that is why I’ve activated Florida’s Price Gouging Hotline and encourage anyone who suspects price gouging to report it to my office by calling (866)-9-NO-SCAM,” said Attorney General Bondi. “By reporting suspected price gouging you can protect yourself and your fellow Floridians.”
Florida law prohibits businesses from drastically raising prices for essential commodities during a storm, such as: water, food, gasoline, lumber and hotel rooms.
The last hurricane to hit Florida was Matthew last October. Matthew brushed up along Florida’s , east coast before eventually making landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 storm.