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Irma is an 'overwhelming storm,' says Jeb Bush, who saw 9 hurricanes hit Florida

  • Florida residents must heed the warnings of local officials, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urges.
  • "One thing that's important to note is that after the storm, more deaths occur than before the storm," Bush says.
  • "A lot of times people get on the streets, into flooded areas, and they may get electrocuted, there may be other issues," he adds.

Hurricane Irma is an "overwhelming storm," and residents must heed the warnings of local officials, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told CNBC in a phone interview Friday.

"One thing that's important to note is that after the storm, more deaths occur than before the storm," said Bush, who saw nine hurricanes hit the Sunshine State as governor.

"A lot of times people get on the streets, into flooded areas, and they may get electrocuted, there may be other issues — so people need to continue to heed the warnings of local officials post-storm as well," he added in a "Squawk Box" interview.

Irma drove toward Florida on Friday as it punished Caribbean islands with devastating winds and torrential rain, leaving behind 14 deaths and catastrophic destruction. Forecasters say it was heading for the Bahamas before moving to Cuba. It's expected to slam into South Florida on Sunday.

Florida state and local officials have learned a lot from years of previous hurricanes, Bush said. That experience has remained, he added.

"There's a lot of information, quality information, for people to make the decision whether to evacuate or take shelter," Bush said. He said he's making preparations to safeguard his Miami area home and his family, adding he plans to shelter in place.

Although many South Florida residents are being told to evacuate, Bush said: "There's a lot of information, quality information, for people to make the decision whether to evacuate or take shelter."

Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida, speaking at eMerge Americas tech conference in Miami on June 12, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida, speaking at eMerge Americas tech conference in Miami on June 12, 2017.

Bush, who unsuccessfully ran for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination against Donald Trump and a wide field of candidates, said that passing tax reform is key for Republicans. But citing his focus on Irma preparations, Bush declined to answer any direct questions about Trump's recent deal with Democrats on a short-term debt ceiling increase and Hurricane Harvey relief.

"After the storm, we can talk about politics," Bush said. "The key to the Republican Party is passing meaningful tax reform to create long-term sustained economic growth. They do that, they're back in the game."

Seven years before Bush became governor, another monster hurricane, Andrew, devastated South Florida in 1992. Bush said the state's building code is now better and response capabilities are much improved.

Andrew was the costliest hurricane to hit the U.S. until Katrina in 2005. Many wonder whether last month's Hurricane Harvey in Texas might top Katrina in total damage costs.

—Reuters contributed to this report.

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