Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Thursday ordered the closing of all colleges, schools and universities in the state ahead of Hurricane Irma’s likely landfall there.
Scott announced that evening that all such institutions, as well as state offices, would be shuttered Friday through Monday.
“[Floridians are] facing a life-threatening storm,” he said in statement. “Every family must prepare to evacuate.” Scott added his decision to shut down Florida’s schools would potentially free up the buildings for use as hurricane shelters or staging areas for relief efforts instead.
Hurricane Irma is of epic proportion, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen. Be safe and get out of its way,if possible. Federal G is ready!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2017
Some Twitter users on Friday voiced alarm over Irma’s approach towards Florida, with the storm expected to strike there sometime this weekend.
Hurricane Irma seems to be worse than the one that hit Houston and ita heading right for Florida.— Arin ! ola (@AshipaEK0) September 8, 2017
Take time today to pray for the people of the Caribbean and Florida as they deal with the effects of Hurricane Irma. Then respond in love.— Rickey Haynes (@rickeyhaynes) September 8, 2017
Many of Florida’s school districts and universities had already voluntarily agreed to close before Scott’s decision. But many colleges and school districts in north central and northwest Florida, however, had remained open before his announcement.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long on Friday said that Irma is an unusually fearsome storm that will almost certainly hit Florida.
“I can guarantee you that I don’t know anybody in Florida that has ever experienced what’s about to hit there,” he said during a press conference. “They need to get out.”
“It’s not a question of if Florida is going to be impacted, but how badly it is impacted,” Long continued at FEMA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“Obviously, Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States in either Florida or some of the southeastern states.”
Irma weakened from a Category 5 to a Category 4 hurricane early Friday, but it remains a powerful storm with maximum sustained winds near 155 mph. The natural disaster is the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded, and it will likely rip into South Florida’s dense population centers Sunday afternoon.
Forecasters are warning that Irma could slam into metropolitan Miami’s six million people before raging up the Atlantic coast into Georgia and South Carolina.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.