The state of Florida is dispatching a National Guard C-130 cargo plane to evacuate patients from a hospital in the Florida Keys as Tropical Storm Rita churns toward the chain of islands.
Authorities have ordered residents and tourists to evacuate the Keys. State Meteorologist Ben Nelson says some areas of the Keys could get a storm surge of seven to nine feet if Rita hits at high tide.
The National Guard cargo plane will evacuate 22 patients from Key West's hospital to Sebring, near Lake Okeechobee.d Several critically ill patients have already been evacuated by ambulance and helicopter to hospitals in Miami.
State Emergency Management Director Craig Fugate says Keys residents ordered to evacuate should leave now. He says if they wait for the next advisory to make a decision, then their window will close and they may find themselves cut off from escape routes.