Saying he still had shutters to put up, Sen. Marco Rubio called a press conference Wednesday and urged South Florida businesses to close early Wednesday and let workers prepare their homes for Hurricane Matthew.
The Florida Republican and former presidential candidate said he needs to finish putting up the metal-panel shutters that protect windows in his West Miami home from storm damage.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“It’s one of the reasons I’ll be changing out of this suit in a few minutes,” he said during a solo appearance at Miami-Dade’s emergency-operations center in Doral. “We started the backyard. We’re going to finish the rest today. I’ve got some people helping me on the second floor.”
Rubio urged employers in the government and private sector to send their workers home early Wednesday so that they’d have the bulk of the afternoon and early evening to put up their own shutters and ready for the storm.
“If people want to put up shutters, they only have a handful of hours to do it,” he said. “I hope employers will consider doing that, allowing employees to go home a little early today.”
Shortly after 2:30 p.m., Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a statement that included this request: “Private businesses are urged to send employees home immediately.”
Miami-Dade County employees not considered essential are being dismissed at 2 p.m., a spokesman said, and county offices will be closed Thursday and Friday. The county school system moved up the closing time for middle schools on Wednesday by 40 minutes, to 3 p.m., to let staff leave early. (Other schools already have early dismissals on Wednesdays.) Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said so many Miami-Dade school employees live in Broward that preparations are particularly urgent for the workforce, given Matthew’s northward track. Miami-Dade schools also are closed Thursday and Friday.
There were scattered reports of other local governments and private employers in Miami-Dade closing early Wednesday as well. Rubio said his offices on the Florida coast closed early Wednesday to let his staff prepare their homes.
“I would encourage everyone on the East Coast of Florida to prepare for the storm as if the cone is heading right for you,” he said. “If it catches us by surprise, if there is any change in the track at the last minute, you will not have the capability to move quickly.”