Tourists, Residents Evacuate Florida Keys

Officials have ordered all residents evacuated from the lower Florida Keys as tropical storm Rita churns toward the exposed island chain today.

The evacuation covers 40,000 residents living southwest of the seven mile bridge to Key West. Key West streets were quiet as dawn broke today under clear skies. Visitors had been ordered out of the Keys yesterday.

Rita has sustained winds of 60 miles-an-hour and is forecast to be in the straits of Florida between the Keys and Northern Cuba Monday, possibly as a category one hurricane with winds of at least 74 miles-an-hour.

The entire Keys is under a hurricane warning and Miami-Dade and Broward counties are under a tropical storm warning and hurricane watch.

At 8 a.m., rita was centered about 235 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas, and about 460 miles east-southeast of Key West. It was moving to the west-northwest near nine miles-an-hour.