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Broward County Mayor On Preparations For Irma


Now, hurricanes do have a history of changing course. But it is looking more and more likely that Florida will take a direct hit from approaching Hurricane Irma. In Broward County, home to Fort Lauderdale and other cities, there's a mandatory evacuation ordered in some places. Mark Rogers and Diane Wolk-Rogers live in Broward. They were putting an extra layer of protection on their house.

DIANE WOLK-ROGERS: We went through Hurricane Wilma a while back, and we lost part of our roofs. So we decided we'd have all hurricane shutters and doors put on our house so that we don't have to put up shutters. But Mark's decided that this is the real deal, so we're doubling.

MARK ROGERS: We're doubling down.

WOLK-ROGERS: So as long as the roof doesn't blow. And I actually put our bicycle helmets and our sea helmets in the house because if the roof goes, got to protect the head.

GREENE: All right. And let's bring in Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief, who's on the line with us. Mayor, thanks for taking the time this morning.

BARBARA SHARIEF: Oh, thank you for having me.

GREENE: So that couple there seems to be treating this as the real deal. Are most people in the county thinking of Irma in that way right now?

SHARIEF: I think most people are. My biggest challenge right now is those people that we have issued the mandatory evacuation for. They are really - some of them are waiting to the last minute to get out and that's concerning.

GREENE: And where is that? That's low-lying areas that you've ordered people to evacuate from?

SHARIEF: Everything east of Federal Highway, low-lying areas that know that they flood. And then mobile home parks because we know a mobile home park can't even withstand a Category 1, let alone a 5.

GREENE: So what are people who are waiting there thinking? I mean, they just want to see if the forecast changes before they hit the highway?

SHARIEF: I think what happened is that we've had so many near misses in Florida, that they said hurricanes are coming our way and then they turn, that people who are so used to that that they feel like, OK, this is going to turn. But yesterday, it - our trajectory, our path, the predictions are looking more and more like a direct hit, not only a direct hit to South Florida, but this storm is going straight right up through Florida. And it's really - it's going to touch every part of our state. And then water and wind through the state and - like nobody's ever seen before. It's wider than Andrew. It's a bigger storm than Wilma, and we need to take it seriously.

GREENE: And I know your county has a lot of vulnerable people. I mean, there are homeless people and other vulnerable populations. What - do you feel like you're able to help them prepare for this hit?

SHARIEF: Absolutely. So Broward County has been very proactive about opening up shelters and about designating shelters. We have shelter capacity right now for 33,000 upfront, and we've had only 2,000 people walk in so far. So in addition to that, we have overflow shelters that are designated that will open up as needed. But we have capacity to house and - everyone in Broward County that needs sheltering through the storm.

GREENE: What are you most worried about right now?

SHARIEF: My biggest worry is going to be, like I said, people staying in areas that are going to be devastated by flooding. And we're not going to be able to get to them. And they're going to be calling 911. And 911 will not respond if the winds are 45 miles an hour or greater.

GREENE: All right. So the message to a lot of people is don't don't wait till the last minute. If you've been ordered to evacuate, you should get out. Well, Mayor Sharief, we're going to be thinking about you and your entire community in the next few days. And we really appreciate you taking the time.

SHARIEF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.