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South Florida Officials Preparing For Potential Danger Of Hurricane Irma

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida is preparing for a major weather event as Category 4 Hurricane Irma continues to move west.

In Miami-Dade County, the early on scramble to stock up on hurricane supplies is on.

Gasoline for generators, food, batteries, and all the stuff you need to get by if Irma hits the region hard.

"We are not yet at the height of hurricane season and people have not taken steps to get prepared yet," said Miami-Dade County Emergency Management Director Curt Sommerhoff. "We are encouraging them to take those steps today."

Irma is an ugly threat for South Florida. Miami-Dade officials meet Tuesday to assess the danger.

"We will be looking at predictions where this storm could go, the intensity of the storm, because all that will, those variables are important to us in case there is an evacuation order this week," said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. "Category one through five they all have their own evacuation zones."

Related: Florida Gov. Declares State Of Emergency Over Hurricane Irma

So while folks are stocking up, officials will be talking evacuations in order to get people out of the way of storm surge.

"The storm surge kills people," Gimenez said. "That's what we worry about."

And first to worry may be Miami Beach.

The town fights flooding at high tide on a regular basis and now potentially a Category 4 hurricane which could push a surge onto the barrier island.

"We have preordered 18 portable generators to make sure that our pumps have power if power goes out," said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. "Our pumps will have power. Those pumps are not designed to handle a hurricane."

It's a reminder that is so important for people to consider; if Irma hits, you are on your own.

"We take care of the folks that can't take care of themselves," Gimenez said. "We expect everyone else to take care of themselves for three days because it would take three days to reach you."

Residents are urged to go to the county website to check and see if they live in evacuation zones.

That's important to know if emergency operations officials decide that evacuations are necessary.

Broward County Emergency Management Director Miguel Ascarunnz offered a message for everyone as Hurricane Irma swirls in the Atlantic.

"Right now, no panic but we do need the public to stay alert, informed and ready, prepared for the end of the week," Ascarrunz said.

After Hurricane Harvey it seems people are paying closer attention to Irma. Ascarrunz says Broward is prepared. They're watching lots of things like canal levels and are told that gas reserves are in good supply. Ascarunnz is also focused on possible evacuation orders. It's too early to tell if they'll be necessary but he said there's a plan in place.

"We prefer at least in Broward County people evacuate out of our zones and stay with family and friends in county, versus getting on the road and driving hundreds of miles north, blocking the roadways," he said.

The county also has 14 shelters — and is adding to its army of shelter workers by training some county staff, a goal they put into place after Hurricane Matthew last year.

"We trained approximately 35 library managers," he said. "We're thinking outside the box."

After we saw flooding earlier this year at Sawgrass Mills Mall from heavy rains and the impact of flooding in Texas, Ascarrunz says if a storm system stalls over South Florida flooding and storm surge could be a major issue but it's a waiting game.

It's also a waiting game at stores like Publix, Winn-Dixie and some Target stores for water and other supplies as people are trying to stock up on items.

Emergency officials recommend that you have:
A weather radio
Flashlights and batteries
A can opener
A first aid kit
Water — experts recommend one gallon of water per person for for at least three days
Plenty of non-perishable food

To visit FEMA's official Emergency Supply list click here.

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