Florida police have warned people not to fire guns at Hurricane Irma after a joke on Facebook spiralled out of control.
Ryon Edwards, who created the Shoot At Hurricane Irma event, posted an invitation with the note: “YO SO THIS GOOFY LOOKING WINDY HEADASS NAMED IRMA SAID THEY PULLING UP ON US, LETS SHOW IRMA THAT WE SHOOT FIRST.”
The 22-year-old said he did so out of “stress and boredom” and didn’t expect it to get global attention.
But that’s exactly what happened, with the post generating headlines around the world.
Whether it was seen as a joke or not, more than 50,000 suggested they would join the event.
Edwards told The Associated Press on Sunday that it “seems the joke may have gone over many people’s heads. I’ve got people in my inbox mad as hell because they think this is actually happening. I don’t know whether to laugh or sigh.”
Most, but not all, Facebook responders seemed to understand that Edwards was not serious, posting photos and comments making fun of Florida stereotypes, including pot-bellied men dressed only in their underwear holding handguns and rifles.
This image had been circulated widely on social media.
In any case, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office felt it had to respond.
It tweeted late Saturday: “DO NOT shoot weapons @ (hashtag) Irma. You won’t make it turn around (and) it will have very dangerous side effects.” People have been killed by falling bullets.
Edwards said in a Facebook post Sunday there is a lesson to be taken from his viral experience.
“I’ve learned that about 50 percent of the world could not understand sarcasm to save their lives. Carry on,” he wrote.
Hurricane Irma made landfall in the lower Florida Keys on Sunday morning, unleashing severe winds and storm surges on its path toward the state’s west coast. Top sustained winds reached 130 mph.
The sheriff’s office for Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, said on Saturday that one man had died in a car crash during the storm.
At least 22 people in the Caribbean lost their lives and thousands have been displaced.
Nearly 7 million people from several U.S. states in the storm’s path were told to evacuate their homes, according to the Associated Press.