"This storm will envelope us whether it is off shore or on shore. It won't make a difference," Levine told CBS Miami on Wednesday, speaking of its changing projected path.
Irma's current forecasted path puts it over the Miami area by Sunday morning, with severe tropical storm conditions hitting the area by Saturday evening. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Giménez proactively ordered a mandatory evacuation of tourists and residents on Wednesday evening.
"I described it as a nuclear hurricane because of the devastating effect it's had on the Caribbean islands on its way toward Florida."
Still, some residents—who've survived weaker hurricanes in previous years—don't plan on evacuating the city. One said the buildings lined up along the beach will be strong enough to absorb much of the storm surge, making it safe to stay home during the event.
"We have talked to people in your city who say, 'We ain't going,'" CBS4's Hank Tester told Levine.
"I hate to hear that," Levine replied. "I'll do anything in my power to convince them this is a very serious storm. This is a nuclear hurricane. They should leave the beach. They must leave the beach."
Levine continued to call the hurricane "nuclear" during an interview with Today anchors on Friday. "I described it as a nuclear hurricane because of the devastating effect it's had on the Caribbean islands on its way toward Florida," he said. He said Miami Beach has been quiet with deserted streets as of Thursday as evacuation warnings were heeded.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuating coastal Florida area and they are now struggling to migrate inland as traffic clogs major roadways.
The pre-hurricane mandates could lead it to become one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history, clogging both highways and the skies. Airlines in south Florida added as many departing flights as possible Thursday night and Friday morning before planning to essentially shut down over the weekend.
Despite jams and crowds, Florida Gov. Rick Scott urges residents to leave evacuation zones immediately rather than wait until the weekend.
"We cannot save you once the storm starts," Scott said. "So, if you are in an evacuation sons and need help, you need to tell us know."
All hospitals would be closed and ambulances, including air transports, would be gone by Friday morning, Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi said. Monroe County is home to the Florida Keys—who will experience the hurricane first in Florida—but Miami will take similar action.
"You might as well leave now, while you have a chance, because when you dial 911, you will not get an answer," Gastesi said.