First evacuations ordered in Florida Keys as third hurricane threatens

| Thursday, September 09, 2004

Florida, still recovering from two massive hurricanes, is in the likely path of a third storm, this one more deadly and powerful than the first two.

Hurricane Ivan, which Thursday was closing in on the island nation of Jamaica, has virtually wiped out the island nation of Grenada. It is rated a category 5 storm, meaning it has sustained winds of roughly 160 mph. Some wind gusts were even stronger.

Maps of the hurricane’s projected course from the National Hurricane Center show it is likely to hit the Florida Keys shortly after it passes over Cuba, perhaps as early as Sunday. Although the storm’s path is unpredictable, experts say it could reach mainland Florida early next week, and is following a path similar to Hurricane Charley, which hit Florida in August before Hurricane Frances.

The National Weather Service issued a mandatory evacuation order Thursday for all non-residents and visitors, including recreational vehicles, and encouraged residents to evacuate as well. The weather service said a mandatory evacuation of residents could occur as soon as Friday at 7 a.m. EDT.

Thursday afternoon, the eye of the storm was about 360 miles southeast of Jamaica. It was moving west-northwest at roughly 15 mph.

As each of the hurricanes loomed over the peninsula, state officials have called for trucks to avoid the region unless carrying needed emergency supplies. A similar order is expected with Ivan.

In addition, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who earlier issued an executive order extending the allowances for truck sizes and weights for any vehicle involved in the relief effort, is asking neighboring states to allow any trucks headed to Florida to issue similar allowances.

If you have questions about the temporary changes in size and weight restrictions, you can call the state’s road use permits office at (850) 410-5777.