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Traffic in Florida comes to a standstill as residents flee ahead of Irma


Updated September 07, 2017 10:58 PM EDT

Traffic in Florida is set to get much, much worse as 500,000 people have been told to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma making landfall.

Already, what would otherwise be very quick trips have become daylong journeys on jam packed highways as many take to the streets in search of gasoline and shelter. To make matters worse, seats on planes out of Florida have been difficult to come by.

"There was no gas and it's gridlock. People are stranded on the sides of the highway," said Mari Michaud, who loaded her two children and her dog into a small SUV in Cocoa Beach at 10 a.m. on Thursday. "It's 92 degrees out and little kids are out on the grass on the side of the road. No one can help them."

Since the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for the Florida Keys and the rest of the state, many of the Miami metropolitan area's 6 million residents have battened down the hatches in anticipation of an intense storm that could hit anywhere from Florida to North Carolina.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

Updated September 07, 2017 06:31 PM EDT

WJLA meteorologist Josh Knight gives us an update from West Palm Beach in Florida as Hurricane Irma approaches.

Updated September 07, 2017 03:17 PM EDT

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks about his state's Hurricane Irma preparations.

Updated September 07, 2017 01:55 PM EDT

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned Thursday afternoon that Hurricane Irma could push water levels to five to 10 feet above ground in some areas of Florida.

Areas from Jupiter Inlet to Bonita Beach, including the Florida Keys, could see waters rise to those levels if peak storm surge occurs at high tide, the NHC said.

Irma has maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, with higher gusts, as the moves west-northwest between the north coast of Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Updated September 07, 2017 11:51 AM EDT

The chance of direct impacts from Hurricane Irma is increasing in parts of Georgia and the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Thursday.

The NHC said it is too early to specify the magnitude and location of the potential impacts.

Updated September 07, 2017 11:20 AM EDT

A Hurricane Watch has been issued for South Florida and the Florida Keys ahead of Hurricane Irma, and a Storm Surge Watch has been issued for parts of South Florida and the Keys.

The Storm Surge Watch indicates that there is a "possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline, generally within 48 hours."

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) also urged people not to "focus on the exact track" of Hurricane Irma, as there is a "high probability of trop storm and hurricane conditions well away from the center."

Irma has maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, with higher gusts, as it moves west-northwest toward the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Updated September 07, 2017 09:54 AM EDT

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Thursday warned his state's residents that their government could not help them if they do not evacuate before Hurricane Irma makes landfall.

"We're not going to be able to save people once the storm hits," he said during a press conference in Hialeah, Florida. "If you're told to evacuate, get out quickly. Do not ignore evacuation orders."

"This storm is powerful and deadly," Scott added of Irma, a Category 5 hurricane. "There have already been people in the Caribbean that have died."

"This is not a storm you can sit and wait through. Possessions can be replaced, and you cannot. We can rebuild your home, we can regain your possessions, but we can't get your life back."

Scott also acknowledged the "very frustrating" fuel shortages across Florida as people there tried to fuel their cars and flee Irma's expected path across the state.

"We know fuel is very important," he said. "We have to get the fuel as fast as we can to everybody to help people evacuate. And we are absolutely devoting every state resource we can to address those concerns."

"All ports still remain open," Scott added. "We are laser-focused on how to get as much fuel as possible into our ports while they are still open."

Scott added that people in Irma's path should not hesitate to make any decisions about how to handle their safety during the impending natural disaster.

"This thing is bigger than our entire state right now," he said of Irma's size. "The big thing is, you can't wait. Whether it's fuel, whether it's traffic, whatever the issue is, the longer you wait, the harder it is get the resources. Take this seriously."

Updated September 07, 2017 09:38 AM EDT

Florida Gov. Rick Scott gives an update on his state's Hurricane Irma preparations.

Florida is suffering from widespread gas shortages as Hurricane Irma increasingly nears the Sunshine State, according to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg on Wednesday reported that the rush for fuel in Florida may require reserves from as far away from Texas, which remains in recovery after Hurricane Harvey late last month.

GasBuddy.com, a retail price-tracking service, reported that as many as 600 stations in Florida’s metropolitan areas lacked fuel Wednesday.

Harvey cut off major population centers in Texas like Dallas and San Antonio in late August, prompting surplus fuel gallons in Florida to be trucked about 1,000 miles west.

The deliveries were meant to ease fuel shortages in Texas before the long Labor Day weekend, according to Bloomberg, but now truckers may make the same long haul in reverse for Florida.

“We were long-hauling from Florida to Houston last week, and now we’re talking about going from Houston to Florida,” said Andy Milton, senior vice president of supply for Mansfield Oil in Gainesville, Georgia. “That’s just the stupidity of the world we’re in right now.”

Bloomberg reported that the fuel supply woes began when Harvey caused flooding at the end of August that shut down pipelines, refineries, and terminals along the Texas coast.

More than 20 percent of America’s fuel-making capacity was stalled at one point, according to Bloomberg, drying up shipments to the nation’s largest gasoline route.

The Colonial Pipeline carries more than 1 million barrels of gasoline daily from Gulf Coast refineries to markets across the southeastern U.S.

WOKV News on Thursday illustrated the severity of the gas shortages in Jacksonville, and it also depicted how Irma’s approach is tangling up Florida’s traffic routes overall.

The Miami Herald on Wednesday reported, meanwhile, that Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) two nuclear plants are preparing for Irma potentially passing over them.

FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said a decision to close the company’s Turkey Point and St. Lucie plans would be made “well in advance” of Irma reaching land.

“If we anticipate there will be direct impacts on either facility we’ll shut down the units,” he said.

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