Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam returned to his home of Polk County on Thursday, checking on preparations for food, shelter and transportation from the county’s Emergency Operations Center.
He also issued warnings to state residents to take action immediately: “Irma is a beast. There is no scenario in which Southeast Florida will escape it. And a slight shift can send it (farther inland). Being inland is not a free pass to this storm.”
Earlier, Gov. Rick Scott had noted in his Thursday morning press conference that the storm is so large it will cause damage across the state and on both coasts.
Residents and officials of Polk County still remember the three hurricanes that crossed Polk County in 2004, with heavy damage each time. Emergency personnel in Polk and counties south say they are not dropping their guard just because of the latest predictions are that Hurricane Irma may only hit southeast Florida.
The most devastating of the three 2004 hurricanes hitting Polk County was Hurricane Charley, which was predicted to go offshore up the west coast of the state. Instead, it suddenly shifted east almost at the last minute, entered Charlotte Harbor and went up the middle of the state.
Putnam, also a Republican candidate for governor in 2018, said his department also is closely monitoring the distribution of gasoline in Southeast Florida where many stations have already run out.
“This is not a fuel shortage problem but a distribution problem,” he said. “There is gas in the state; we are now working to get it distributed to areas needed.”