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Florida begins largest-ever prison evacuation in state history ahead of Hurricane Irma

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DCNFChris White, DCNF

Florida will begin the largest-ever prison evacuation in state history Friday as officials prepare for an almost certain onslaught from Hurricane Irma, according to a report Thursday.

Officials are expected to complete the evacuation of 7,000 inmates Friday in both southern and central Florida, according to Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) Secretary Julie Jones. Forecasters believe the Category 4 hurricane could be the largest storm generated in the Atlantic.

“I told every regional director to act like this storm was going to hit them directly,” Jones told reporters. “I feel very comfortable that our inmate population is safe, our officers are safe.”

Vans are busing more than 4,000 inmates in southern Florida, while another 3,000 prisoners in central Florida are expected to be shuttled north as Irma approaches the state, FDC spokeswoman Michelle Glady told reporters Thursday.

The Sunshine State has been gearing up for the worst since the storm barreled across the Caribbean islands earlier this week. Forecasters believe Irma’s massive size could cause the greatest amount of damage.

Irma is larger than Florida, according to CBS News weather producer David Parkinson. Florida is about 65,755 square miles, meaning the massive hurricane is also bigger than states such as Ohio and New York. Ohio is 44,825 square miles and New York is 54,556 square miles.

Irma, which has maintained wind speeds of 165 miles per hour, slammed several Caribbean islands Wednesday — including areas in Barbuda, St. Martin, Anguilla, and St. Barts — and has been skirting parts of Puerto Rico, which could be without power for as long as six months. The U.S. Virgin Islands are also experiencing severe weather.

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