As Hurricane Irma brings devastating winds closer to the mainland United States, the 6 million people who live in South Florida are preparing for the worst. Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, on Thursday issued an evacuation order for people living east of U.S. Route 1.
On how the city is preparing for the storm
"We started preparing about three, four days ago when this storm started to surface out in the Atlantic, we started preparing. And this is nothing new to the city of Fort Lauderdale. We've been dealing with storms for our 100-plus year existence, so actually we feel like we're ready, we feel like we're prepared, and more importantly we feel like, because of our early start, that we've got all our neighbors and visitors prepared, and that's important."
On his biggest concerns
"We have a downtown urban center that's one of the most successful business centers anywhere, and we've got obviously an airport and a seaport, both very large, very successful, right next to the ocean. Then you also gotta look at all our tourist destinations. We have dozens and dozens of hotels, high-rise hotels, so yeah we're an urban area with about 1.8 million people.
"My biggest concerns now are storm surge and the wind. Everybody's kind of been focused on what happened in Houston, and it was a tragedy, but we're seeing that Houston was a huge water effect, huge rain effect. We're more concerned about storm surge. If the storm surge comes with a high tide, and a storm surge comes with a strong wind out of the east, that's gonna push a lot of water into low-lying areas. That's not necessarily rain, that's the ocean coming up. And so that's a huge concern of ours.
"And then secondly the wind factor. We do have tall buildings, we do have a very developed downtown and a very developed barrier island. And the wind is something that we're very sensitive to, so part of the message we've been talking about is, check your yard, check your neighbor's yard, check the construction sites and the properties in the city, and make sure we're not leaving any hazardous materials there, any possible projectiles, things of that nature because we've got to kinda all keep an eye out to make sure we don't create any hazardous conditions or damage after this storm. And so we've really emphasized that people need to be aware of their surroundings, and aware of what their neighbors are doing."
On whether he's worried about people getting stuck in the city
"No we're not. I mean like I said, again, we started early with this message and we've been educating people and informing people. We've seen a lot of people driving out on I-95, the turnpike, I-75. We're seeing a lot of people heading north, and as you know with Florida, you can't go any direction other than head north, so that's kind of a situation that we're seeing a lot of people heading north. But I think that we're in fairly decent shape in terms of travel arrangements, I know the airport's very busy. But right now, we still have 36 to 48 hours where we can I think still operate flights. So I suspect every plane leaving here is full. At the end of day, there's been plenty of notice with this storm. And going back, I've been here all my life, and this storm is probably as well publicized and as well... I guess I would say we've kept the public as well informed as any storm before. Part of it is because of how just big and bad and broad this storm is. But we've had plenty of time to educate and inform our neighbors and visitors of the potential impact of this storm."
This article was originally published on September 07, 2017.
This segment aired on September 7, 2017.