The forecasting for Hurricane Irma is still rather unpredictable. However, the entire southern peninsular of Florida is urged to hurry preparations to completion. As many long time CTH readers will note, I have zero experience with the forecasting but a great deal of experience with hurricane prep, response and recovery.
At 500 PM EDT (2100 UTC), the distinct eye of Hurricane Irma was located near latitude 20.9 North, longitude 71.1 West. Irma is moving toward the west-northwest near 16 mph (26 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue for the next couple of days with some decrease in forward speed. On the forecast track, the eye of Irma should continue to move between Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos Islands this evening. The core of the hurricane will then move between the north coast of Cuba and the Bahamas during the next day or two. –ADVISORY LINK–
Maximum sustained winds remain near 175 mph (280 km/h) with higher gusts. Irma is a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days.
You won’t see this on the news, for multiple reasons, but for readers who were familiar with the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, there are almost identical behaviors being noted today, ahead of Irma, with residents on both coasts of South Florida. This is a troubling reality. Anxiety can bring out the worst in people. Please try to avoid crowds and pay attention to your surroundings.
Thursday evening update: We’re getting down to crunch time. HURRICANE IRMA is on track to impact the southern part of the state beginning Saturday. In South Florida, tomorrow is your last day to prepare your home, business, car, or boat.
The big change today is that the (generally most reliable) European model has shifted to the west. The effect of this is simply to reinforce the fact that we cannot be absolutely certain EXACTLY where the worst of this hurricane is going to go. The only thing we feel certain about is that a large powerful hurricane is going to approach the peninsula of Florida on Sunday.
The bottom line: The entire peninsula needs to be if preparation mode. Anybody not preparing for the worst hurricane in decades is rolling the dice.
This means getting supplies so you can stay home for a week. If you haven’t seen the to-do lists, look at the post from yesterday, I’m posting it again below, along with a list of supplies, which is attached.
A threat like this also means evacuating where necessary. Emergency managers know that evacuating is an excruciating process. People are leaving their homes behind. But there is no choice. Living near the water on the east coast of Florida means living with the possibility of evacuation. On the west coast the threat extends well inland, depending on the angle that the winds strike the coastline. FOLLOW YOUR LOCAL EVACUATION ORDERS, even if the traffic is bad. This is a life and death issue.
If the storm stays on the NHC track, Irma is going to push the ocean and the inland waterways – on BOTH the east and west coast of the state – over their banks potentially 10 feet over normally dry land. It won’t be that high everywhere, and in some places it could be a bit higher. There is no way to know exactly where the highest will be, so we have to plan for it to be extreme everywhere near the water.
It is impossible not to be anxious in a situation like this. The best defense is taking action. There is a lot to do. .
Here is that list of things to do and think about to help you successfully weather Irma. Also, attached once again is the shopping list from Brevard County – but I recommend you have 7 days of food and water, and an AM/FM radio.
1. Try to get LED flashlights and lanterns. They last much longer. Have at least one flashlight for every person in your family, and ideally have a lantern or two for general lighting.
2. Get a portable radio and plenty of batteries so your whole family can listen to news coverage if the power goes out. Do NOT depend on your cellphone for communications.
3. Take photos today or tomorrow of every room, every piece of electronics, and everything valuable. Upload the pictures to the cloud – Dropbox, Microsoft Cloud, iCloud, Google Drive, etc. – before the storm.
4. Also take photos of key documents and upload them as well. You can do that today.
5. Save your contacts in your phone to the cloud. If you don’t know how to do that, frame grab your screen or have someone take photos of your contacts with their phone and email or text the pictures back to you to a friend. Don’t take a chance on losing your contacts if something happens to your phone.
6. Secure your photographs and albums in double plastic bags.
7. Plastic bags and duct tape are your friends. You can’t buy too many of them. Put documents in gallons-size (or larger) Ziploc bags. Put larger items in double large trash bags cocooned so the opening of the first bag is in the bottom of the second bag. Put some clothes in plastic bags in case you get a roof leak. Duct tape bags closed. Put valuables on a high shelf in a closet.
8. Think now about where you are going to park your car. A parking garage is ideal. Outside in a low-lying area or under a tree is the worst. Think about all of the cars you’ve seen ruined in storms because people made bad choices about where they parked the car before the storm. When we know the storm track, we’ll have a better idea which side of a building will give the best protection. Next to a building on the downwind side gives you the best chance if you have to leave your car outside.
9. Do your laundry and wash your dishes before the storm.
10. You dishwasher is an excellent “safe” in your house if you need someplace to put valuables. Your washer and dryer can offer good protection as well. These could be good places to put your bagged-up photos, for example.
11. Fill Ziploc bags ¾ full of water and stuff them in your freezer to fill up the space. The less air you have in the freezer, the longer your refrigerator will stay cold. Do NOT turn your refrigerator to any lower setting than normal – that can damage the unit.
12. Choose a friend or relative out of town to be the contact point for your family or group of friends. After a storm, it is always easier to get a call out of the area than within the storm zone. Be sure everybody has the out-of-town number and make a plan to check in ASAP after the storm.
13. If you live in a high rise, be sure you know what the procedures are going to be in the building. Will the building be evacuated? Will the water continue to work? Will elevators work? What is on a generator? If you can stay in the building (if it’s away from the water) find an interior hallway on a low floor where you can set up camp during the storm. It will not be safe to be on a high floor or near windows, even with modern hurricane impact windows. A hallway surrounded by concrete is your best bet.
14. Buy a plastic sheet – the kind you’d use as a drop cloth for painting – to line your bath tub. Line the bath tub and fill it with water before the storm. You’ll use this water to flush the toilet if the city water goes out. A sauce pan is a good scoop. Fill the tank and your toilet will work like normal.
15. Think about what you will sit on if you are in a hallway or other safe spot for a number of hours – maybe 12 hours or more. Consider comfortable folding chairs. Take food to your safe spot. Have books or other non-electronic amusements, including for the kids.
16. To repeat!! Do NOT count on your cellphone for communications. When Harvey hit Texas as a Cat 4, it knocked out the mobile phone system. In addition, your battery may run down and you may have no ability to charge it. Have an adapter so you can charge your cellphone in a car, have extra charges, and back-up batteries if you can.
17. Pick up your yard and anything that might blow in the wind. Bring in pool furniture if you can. Don’t put it in the water because it can damage the pool.
18. Check the shopping list attached below from Brevard County, Florida. It’s good, except I recommend 7 days of water and food, and an AM/FM portable radio so you can keep up with news coverage.
19. Most importantly, be sure you know a safe place where you and your family can ride out the storm, if it comes. This is the most critical decision you can make today. There almost certainly will be evacuations ordered for parts of Florida. If you live near the water, put together the food, clothes, valuable items, and important papers you’ll take with you NOW. Leave as early as possible. There will be a crush on the road and you may not find a hotel in the entire state of Florida.