SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - More than 5.6 million people have been ordered to evacuate as Florida’s coasts face massive storm surges, fierce flooding and deadly winds as Hurricane Irma targets the Sunshine State.
Florida’s Governor Rick Scott says some 50,000 Floridians have already moved to 260 shelters across the state.
Hurricane Irma is expected to gain strength over the next several hours while Florida braces for impact. Saturday evening, some areas were already feeling the impact.
Some Vermonters are watching on helpless from afar.
Gene Richards, the aviation director at the Burlington International Airport, owns a home in Fort Myers, Florida, a city that was forecasted Saturday to be hit harder than previously expected.
He’s been keeping an eye on his property with a security camera he can access on his phone.
Richards says his neighbors have moved his patio furniture into his pool and other loose items into his garage so they won’t cause damage if the wind picks up during the storm.
“I feel a little bit of anxiety but at the same time it's great to have good friends,” said Richards. “Typically Floridians brush these things off. This one's a little more serious than they've had in a long time so when I hear the fear in their voices, it tends to give me some concern."
In his capacity as aviation director, Richards says there’s been an increase in people flying in from Florida this week, most likely to avoid the storm.
Wind, rain and flooding aren’t the only threats to Florida as Hurricane Irma approaches.
With millions evacuating, the state is also experiencing a major gas shortage that is getting worse.
Gas-Buddy lists shortages in numerous areas.
It includes the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area where nearly 65% of gas stations had no fuel Saturday.
Panic buying earlier this week is partly to blame.
Disrupted fuel deliveries to Florida last week were also a factor as Hurricane Harvey rocked the Gulf Coast’s refinery system.