The storm returned to Category 5 status by the morning of Saturday, Sept. 9, but is expected to weaken as it moves northward across the state.
Officials and emergency workers urged people in parts of coastal western Florida from Collier County to Manatee County to evacuate as Hurricane Irma shifted west the night of Friday, Sept. 8 and the morning of Saturday, Sept. 9.
The storm had strengthened and returned to a Category 5 with 160-mph winds by Saturday morning, but is expected to weaken as it makes its way north over the state. Most projections as of the morning of Saturday, Sept. 9 had it affecting northeastern Florida with Category 1- or tropical storm-force winds.
Flagler County officials had earlier urged county residents to head west or northwest to safety, but by 8 a.m. Friday had changed their advice as the storm track shifted closer to the west coast.
"Yesterday we were advising people to head west, but we no longer feel that is a good recommendation,” Flagler County Public Safety Emergency Manager Steve Garten said in a news release. “The track keeps shifting, which makes it difficult all the way around.”
In a news release issued at 11:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, Florida Gov. Rick Scott's Office urged Floridians in evacuation zones in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier Counties to prepare to locate the nearest hurricane shelter if they haven't evacuated by noon Saturday, Sept. 9
“As we know, the direction of storms like Hurricane Irma can change in an instant, and the latest forecast track has put the storm heading directly up Florida’s west coast," Scott said in a news release. "This storm is life-threatening and an imminent threat to our state. Not following evacuation orders could cost you your life. Evacuations are in place along the coast from Manatee County to Collier County and everyone must listen to their local officials and get out now. If you do not leave by noon tomorrow, you need to be prepared to get to the closest available shelter. Do not stay on the road — find the closest available shelter to your home and go there immediately. After noon tomorrow, it will not be safe for anyone in these coastal counties along the west coast to travel and it will not be safe for the law enforcement officers who will need to rescue you.
“Also, as I said earlier today, if you live in an evacuation zone in Palm Beach, Broward, or Miami-Dade, you need to leave before midnight tonight. If you are in the Florida Keys, get out right now. The Division of Emergency Management is working with counties nonstop to open more shelters, and shelters are available in every county except Monroe. I cannot be more clear- this storm is unlike anything our state has seen and Floridians must take action to stay safe. Do not risk your life or the life of your loved ones.”
The National Weather Service has a free Android App available through Google Play (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.joeperkins.nws&hl=en) called National Weather Service NOW that allows residents to get the most up-to-date information, according to a Flagler County government news release.
The Florida 511 Traveler Information System from the Florida Department of Transportation is the state’s official source for real-time traffic and travel information. There is an app that provides door-to-door directions with travel times and alternate routes on most roadways throughout the state. Visit https://fl511.com to download information.
Check for current information on Flagler County’s website flaglercounty.org, or tune into the county’s partner radio station WNZF, 1550 am, 106.3 fm and the Flagler Radio App worldwide. Follow “Flagler County Government” or “Flagler County Emergency Management on Facebook or Twitter. The county’s social media team will provide updates through these official accounts: