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Evacuating ahead of Irma? Here are tips if you’re driving, flying or looking for shelter

Pedro Garcia, right, purchases necessities prior to Hurricane Irma, including water, saltines, cans of tuna and some canned products at the Sedanos Supermarket on Eighth Street and 48th Avenue on September 5, 2017.
Pedro Garcia, right, purchases necessities prior to Hurricane Irma, including water, saltines, cans of tuna and some canned products at the Sedanos Supermarket on Eighth Street and 48th Avenue on September 5, 2017. rkoltun@miamiherald.com

Residents in evacuation zones will be displaced as early as Wednesday, but some helpful tips can help ease the headache as South Florida prepares for the potential arrival of Hurricane Irma.

If you’re impacted by an evacuation, but don’t know whether to fly out, drive north, or seek a place to stay, here’s what you should consider:

Are you in an evacuation zone?

For people who live in A or B zones along the coast of South Florida or on barrier islands, evacuations will be mandatory if an order is issued.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said mandatory evacuations could begin as early as Wednesday evening on the coast and barrier islands.

To determine if your home is within an evacuation zone in Miami-Dade, visit this site (gisweb.miamidade.gov/communityservices) enter your address, use the interactive map or call Miami-Dade Contact Center at 311. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said mandatory evacuations could begin as early as Wednesday evening on the coast and barrier islands.

In Broward County, find the evacuation map and shelter information here (broward.org/hurricane) or call 954-831-3900. In Broward, an evacuation order could be issued for beginning on Wednesday or Thursday.

  

For residents and tourists in Monroe County, shelters in Monroe County will close in Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricanes and residents will be ordered to evacuate to the mainland. Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said in a news release that a mandatory evacuation for tourists will begin at sunrise Wednesday. An evacuation plan for residents is also under way but a timetable hasn't been determined.

What to take

If you evacuate, collect and take with you your family’s medical and property insurance papers, immunization records and medical records, IDs, passport and other important papers, pet food, prescriptions and supplies, if needed, and a few of your most cherished mementos.

Get cash. If you’re traveling to a different city, inform your credit card company bank to avoid further headaches.

Watch as Irma enters the Western Atlantic.

If you’re driving

To ease evacuations and keep traffic flowing, tolls on all Florida roadways will be lifted beginning at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“They will be suspended for the duration of the storm’s impacts to Florida,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott, in a statement. “Ensuring the safety of Florida families and visitors is our top priority and suspending tolls statewide will help people quickly evacuate and make it easier for all Floridians to access important hurricane supplies to ensure they are fully prepared.”

Ensuring the safety of Florida families and visitors is our top priority and suspending tolls statewide will help people quickly evacuate and make it easier for all Floridians to access important hurricane supplies to ensure they are fully prepared.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Juan Rivera, field manager for AAA Miami-Dade, said business in the South Florida office was brisk on Tuesday. Orlando and Central Florida hotels and motels are completely sold out, he said, and clients are booking further north. On Tuesday, his office received numerous requests for bookings and car rentals outside the state — including Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee, he said.

$2.71 Average gas prices in Miami-Dade Tuesday, the highest since July 2015

Gas prices are the highest since July of 2015, he said; in Miami-Dade they averaged $2.71 a gallon on Tuesday.

Those planning to drive north should leave early, fill their gas tanks — before the storm — and expect heavy traffic on the expressways.

“If there is anyone with half a tank or a quarter tank, you better run over there right now. The lines are incredible,” said Rivera, who said there was at least an hour’s wait at the BJ’s on 117th and Sunset. Another station near there closed early on Tuesday. “It was out of gas.”

If you’re flying out

Put on your patience cap. Finding a flight out of Miami has been a challenge for most last-minute bookers, due to a surge in the number of passengers seeking flights and the corresponding surge in prices. Fares have risen to nearly $2,000 for flights out of Miami to other U.S. destinations.

Travelers should also closely monitor Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale International Airport for flight cancellations and airport closures. Airports will close once sustained winds reach 55 miles per hour. As of Tuesday afternoon, American Airlines had canceled 35 flights to or from Miami.

Watch as Hurricane Irma moves into the Western Atlantic.

Finding a place to stay

Authorities recommend evacuees stay with family or friends outside of evacuation zones because limited resources and high demand will make finding alternate accommodations difficult.

If you’re looking for a hotel room, book it early — especially if you’re driving up I-95. Some hotel chains such as Hilton and Wyndham have lowered rates to welcome displaced hurricane evacuees during Hurricane Harvey. No announcement have yet been made in South Florida about special hotel rates.

Home sharing platform Airbnb is expected to activate its disaster relief program this week to provide free housing in Airbnb host residences across the state for evacuees.

The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau offers several resources for finding hotel rooms, as well as its own survey of local hotels with an updated tally of available rooms. (Visit miamiandbeaches.com/travel-weather-advisory).

Home sharing platform Airbnb is expected to activate its disaster relief program this week to provide free housing in Airbnb host residences across the state for evacuees. The platform has activated the program for previous natural disasters, including Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Harvey last month in Texas.

Go to a shelter as a last resort, as they will often be crowded and uncomfortable; they usually do not allow pets. Take a hurricane emergency kit with you. These tools can help you find a shelter in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH

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