The hundreds of Hurricane Irma refugees still living in the last remaining local emergency shelter got a surprise visit Sunday afternoon from a high-profile guest: former President Bill Clinton.
Clinton dropped in on the shelter at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exhibition fairgrounds at Tamiami Park, a source familiar with the trip told the Miami Herald. Some 700 evacuees from the Miami area and the Florida Keys were living in the shelter as of Sunday morning, down from about 900 on Saturday night.
Clinton’s visit, which was closed to news reporters, was organized after the former president inquired about how he might say hello to Irma victims. Guiding Clinton through the shelter was Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
The county moved evacuees into the fairgrounds after shutting down the other 41 shelters opened ahead of the storm. They were then joined by Keys evacuees, who had previously been housed nextdoor at Florida International University. Monroe County started allowing Lower Keys residents to return home Saturday.
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President Donald Trump traveled to Fort Myers and Naples on Thursday to survey Irma damage and hand out food. The White House asked Monroe administrators about going to the storm-torn Keys, but emergency managers urged the president to hold off so as not to divert law enforcement and other resources from the recovery effort.
“We can’t accept motorcades on our roadway,” Emergency Director Marty Senterfitt said Friday.