As Hurricane Irma destroyed homes and flooded streets in the northern Caribbean islands, it was business as usual for most in Miami Beach. Tamwa Ashiru, a tourist from Nigeria, didn't know this was the calm before the storm.
With some residents already gone, there was less traffic Wednesday. Some were waiting on the evacuation order from Miami-Dade County, which could send nearly 92,000 people from North Beach to South Beach rushing to reach the mainland through four routes.
Store shelves were empty and there were lines forming at gas stations. But although the powerful Category 5 storm with potentially catastrophic winds of 185 mph could impact the area Sunday, tourists were enjoying the beach. Ashiru will soon be taking an early flight back to London.
"We are kind of feeding off of the energy of the locals as well and most people just seem to be going about their business, almost as if it's normal," Ashiru said as a worker put up shutters to protect the Kardashians' DASH boutique on Collins Avenue.
DASH was the first to close in the areaMiami Beach Mayor Philip Levine asked residents and tourists to evacuate before the official mandatory order. He distributed a letter "strongly urging" tourists to leave.
"Make immediate plans to leave Miami Beach and seek safety," the letter said. He also warned, "Miami Beach is a barrier island and will be seriously impacted by heavy rain, wind and storm surge."
The residents who were choosing to stay were getting ready for widespread flooding and damage. The lines were short at the Publix Super Market near West Avenue, where they were out of water and batteries. Isabel Brous was looking for bottled water, but hasn't been able to find any.
"I am freaking out," Brous said
Levine said the city's covered parking garages were open to residents who wanted to keep their cars on high ground.
The storm surge will test the city's drainage infrastructure again. This time there will be more portable generators and more pumps. City employees were distributing 10 sand bags per resident at 451 Dade Boulevard.