Monroe County bridges to remain open as residents evacuate Florida Keys

Schools in Florida Keys closed until further notice


ISLAMORADA, Fla. – Mandatory evacuations for residents and visitors continue in Monroe County ahead of Hurricane Irma.

The mandatory evacuation order for visitors began at 7 a.m. Wednesday. The mandatory evacuation for residents will begin at 7 p.m.

"If ever there was a storm to take seriously in the Keys, this is it," Monroe County Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt said. "The sooner people leave, the better."

Monroe County administrator Roman Gastesi said, "If you think you're a tough guy, you're on your own."  He cited the risk to rescue personnel if people don't listen to evacuation orders.

Shelters in Monroe County remain closed in a Category 3 hurricane or higher, meaning Keys residents will need to evacuate to the shelter at the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition grounds at 10901 SW 24th St. in Miami.

Emergency evacuation bus pickup stops will be set up for those who need transportation to evacuate. Click here for a list of bus stop locations.

County officials announced all bridges will remain open to vehicle traffic, including trailers with boats, and the Snake Creek Drawbridge in Islamorada will be locked down at 7 a.m. on Friday

The Port of Key West would close at 8 a.m. Friday.

Monroe County has also ordered its schools closed starting Wednesday as Hurricane Irma approaches as a vicious Category 5 storm.

Superintendent Mark Porter made the announcement Tuesday, saying schools will remain closed. A school board meeting for Thursday has also been canceled.

Porter urges families to take the time to prepare for Irma's possible impact.

All three of the county's hospitals have begun plans to evacuate patients, while the county's government offices and parks will close Wednesday.

Monroe County's sheriff said that the focus is on traffic evacuations.  He said that many residents took the storm seriously and started to leave early on Tuesday.