Urgent Warning Issued Ahead of Hurricane Irma – ‘Extremely Dangerous Hurricane’

We’ve been monitoring the progress of Hurricane Irma for several days now. I have written multiple stories regarding the track of the storm, and officials’ response to it (most notably, the U.S. Virgin Islands Governor’s order to confiscate personal arms and ammunition ahead of the storm).

One of the most recent updates, as of 11 am EDT, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration includes an urgent warning about the approaching category 5 storm. The storm will be a catastrophic event wherever it hits, the time to prepare has already begun.

A Storm Surge Watch has been issued for the Florida peninsula from
Jupiter Inlet southward and around the peninsula to Bonita Beach,
including the Florida Keys.

A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the Florida peninsula from
Jupiter Inlet southward and around the peninsula to Bonita Beach,
including the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, and Florida Bay.

The update includes a discussion of what exactly to expect with the storm, on issues ranging from rain, to wind, to storm surge. These are some of the earliest warnings being put into place for the U.S. mainland.

Storm surge will likely be about 5-10 ft Jupiter Inlet to Bonita Beach, and including the Florida Keys.

Winds are still at an extremely high level, nearly 175 mph. These winds are expected to continue as the storm hits Hispaniola. Though the winds may fall to category 4 status by the time it nears Florida, a storm of that strength will still cause havoc.

Rainfall totals will also be a great concern for all the island still in the storm’s path, and up to Florida.

Northeast Puerto Rico and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands…
additional 2 to 4 inches, isolated 6 inches
Much of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos…8 to 12 inches, isolated
20 inches
Andros Island and Bimini, Bahamas…12 to 16 inches, isolated 25
Northern Dominican Republic and northern Haiti…4 to 10 inches,
isolated 15 inches
Southern Dominican Republic and southern Haiti…2 to 5 inches
Eastern and central Cuba…4 to 10 inches, isolated 15 inches
Southeast Florida and the upper Florida Keys…8 to 12 inches,
isolated 20 inches
Lower Florida Keys…2 to 5 inches

These rainfall amounts can cause incredibly dangerous flash floods and mudslides. The flooding will not likely be as insanely widespread and destructive as Harvey was in Texas, though Harvey was not a category 5 storm and it stalled over land, hence the crazy flooding.

It has been 25 years since a category 5 hurricane has made landfall. The last was Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which devastated portions of southern Florida with its 165 mph sustained winds. Yahoo News reports that those who are under evacuation orders seriously need to heed them and get out.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) chief Brock Long said people in Florida and other states must heed evacuation orders as the Category Five hurricane surges towards the US after causing death and destruction in the Caribbean.

The FEMA chief said Irma would be only the fourth Category Five hurricane to hit the United States since 1985 and the first since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

“Bottom line is the majority of people along the coast have never experienced a major hurricane like this. It will be truly devastating,” he told CNN.

Evacuation orders are expected for Georgia and South Carolina within the next 48 hours, as the storm is quite likely going to hit right along the Georgia-South Carolina border, right where the cities of Savannah and Charleston are.

“The entire southeastern United States better wake up and pay attention,” he added.

AccuWeather’s projected path takes the storm up the Eastern Florida coast, to Georgia and then the Carolinas.

The storm could track a bit more east though, and make landfall at the border between the Carolinas. Many variables are still at play, and forecasters are not yet 100% sure exactly where it will make landfall.

One thing is for sure though, Florida will suffer severe damage from the storm, whether hit straight on or not.