PBC officials: Don’t be lulled into complacency by Irma’s western turn

Palm Beach County officials on Friday night urged residents not to become complacent even though the latest forecast track for Hurricane Irma shows the monster storm shifting toward the state’s west coast.

“It is important for us to be vigilant,” Mayor Paulette Burdick said at a 7 p.m. press conference at the county’s Emergency Operations Center. “At any time it could take a right-hand turn and come across the state and affect Palm Beach County.”

>>Hurricane Irma: Get the latest news and information on the storm 

County Administrator Verdenia Baker echoed Burdick’s sentiments. “Do not become complacent and assume the worst is over because it’s tilted a little toward the west,” she said. “This storm has been extremely unpredictable.”

While county residents must be off the roads by 3 p.m. Saturday, when a countywide curfew takes effect, those who are living in unsafe areas or fragile homes still have time to check into a county shelter. Space is available at all 13 shelters except one at Independence Middle School in Jupiter, which is already at capacity, Baker said.

By Friday evening, 11,632 people were in county shelters, she said. Volunteers are still needed to staff them. Anyone interested in helping, should call the United Way volunteer hotline at 561-375-6621.

Residents of the Glades also still have time to catch shuttle buses to take them away from Hurricane Irma’s path. Buses will run from 7 to 9 a.m. from Lake Shore Middle School in Belle Glade and Pahokee Middle School. Some 800 residents took the shuttles on Friday. All were taken to Seminole Ridge and John I. Leonard high schools to wait out the storm.

When county officials on Thursday urged roughly 290,000 residents of mobile homes and coastal and low-lying areas to leave their homes, they included the western farming communities around Lake Okeechobee in the mandatory evacuation order.

>>Hurricane Irma: Should you evacuate for Irma? Know your zone first

With forecasters then predicting that Hurricane Irma would make a beeline for the lake as it tore through the state, Gov. Rick Scott became concerned that lake could overflow the Herbert Hoover dike that surrounds it, Baker said. The dike was built after thousands of Glades residents died in flood-waters after hurricanes in the 1920s.


We’re weathering this storm together.

In addition to possible flooding, there was a recognition that many of the homes in the impoverished area couldn’t withstand a Category 4 or 5 storm and the residents needed to be brought to safety, Baker said.

The next 18 hours will include a series of lasts - the last bus, the last road trip, the last person to enter a shelter. The last airplane - a JetBlue flight is scheduled to take off from Palm Beach International Airport at 9:04 p.m. today. The terminal will close at 10 p.m.

Once the curfew goes into effect at 3 p.m., people face arrest if they are found on the roads, Baker said. People are to remain inside until county officials lift the curfew after the storm passes.

Baker urged residents to make their final preparations. “Don’t wait until the last minute,” she said.

The list of shelters opening in Palm Beach County at 10 a.m. Friday:

>>Hurricane Irma coverage: Follow The Palm Beach Post’s certified weather reporter, Kim Miller on Twitter

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