“POTENTIALLY CATASTROPHIC CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE IRMA” is how the National Hurricane Center refers to the new threat – a monster headed for the Caribbean and maybe Florida. Hurricane Irma is over a thousand miles west of the Continental U.S. and has sustained winds of 185mph.
The Dominican Republic, Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos will be hit Wednesday night, and likely won’t be clear until Friday. In addition to very high winds and storm surge, 20 plus inches of rainfall is predicted in some areas. Later this week, Cuba and the rest of the Bahamas will see Irma if the storm stays on its currently predicted course.
What About Florida?
Will the storm hit Florida? It’s too soon to tell, says the forecasting group. The hurricane predictors do say the chance of direct impacts to the Keys and other parts of the state continue to increase. Perhaps considering the devastation Houston saw with Hurricane Harvey, Florida officials are acting early:
Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for all 67 counties and has ordered all 7,000 members of the state’s National Guard to report to duty on Friday. Highway tolls across the state will be lifted at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez also declared a state of emergency for Miami-Dade County Tuesday afternoon and said evacuations could begin as early as Wednesday on barrier islands and along the coast. Monroe County issued a mandatory evacuation of all residents beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“This is a powerful storm which poses a serious threat to our area,” Gimenez said. “I would rather inconvenience residents on this occasion than suffer any loss of life.”
More Storms on the Horizon
That’s not all. Even if Irma turns out to sea or otherwise doesn’t hammer land, there are two other active tropical cyclones threating the Atlantic: Jose, and Tropical Depression Thirteen. Jose is described as “gaining strength in the Central Tropical Atlantic,” and seems to be following Irma’s track towards our Southeastern Seaboard. Tropical Depression Thirteen is in the Gulf of Mexico and is predicted to stay there – for now.