Florida residents hunker down, brace for Irma

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WOODBURY -

Authorities have issued mandatory evacuation orders for hundreds of thousands of Florida residents as Hurricane Irma approaches. It will likely hit the southern part of the state early Sunday morning.

TRACKING IRMA: Tropical Tracker | Updates | Photos | Weather Center

"If you're in the Keys, get out. We can't save you once the storm starts," Florida Gov. Rick Scott told his constituents.

Mandatory evacuation orders so far cover the Florida Keys as well as Miami-Dade, Monroe and Broward counties.

"This is a serious, serious storm," said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. "I've called it a nuclear hurricane. This is not something you want to ride through."

The Category 5 storm ripped buildings to shreds and killed at least seven people across the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, St. Martin and Barbuda. In Puerto Rico, as many as a million people are without power and water.

Elle Gerhardt moved to Boynton Beach, Florida, from Merrick in 2011. She's north of the mandatory evacuation zone, but said she and her husband, Alex, aren't taking any chances. They've evacuated their home and spoke to News 12 over Facetime as they headed to Asheville, North Carolina.

"Alex wanted to stay, but my gut wanted us to go this year. This one made me want to leave, so we pretty much just packed up all our favorite clothes and things," Gerhardt said.

More than 500,000 people are facing mandatory evacuation orders in Florida. Georgia and both Carolinas have also declared states of emergency as Irma approaches.

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