The 11:00am Hurricane Center Update shows a slightly weaker Hurricane Irma, with continued likely forecasts slightly West of central Florida. Mandatory evacuations of barrier islands are now underway on both coasts. Irma has the potential to be a topography changing event for the Southwest coast line of Florida.
At 1100 AM EDT (1500 UTC), the distinct eye of Hurricane Irma was located near latitude 22.0 North, longitude 75.3 West. Irma is moving toward the west-northwest near 14 mph (22 km/h), and this motion is expected to continue for the next day or so with a decrease in forward speed. A turn toward the northwest is expected by late Saturday. On the forecast track, the eye of Irma should move near the north coast of Cuba and the central Bahamas today and Saturday, and be near the Florida Keys and the southern Florida Peninsula Sunday morning.
Maximum sustained winds are near 150 mph (240 km/h) with higher gusts. Irma is a category 4 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 hurricane as it approaches Florida.
Bryan Norcross – Friday morning update: Extraordinary HURRICANE IRMA continues on track. It will move into the Florida Straits just north of the Cuban coast tomorrow (Saturday) and turn to the north toward Florida during the day.
It is impossible to know the exact angle of the turn, though we are confident it will happen. The possibility that the worst of the storm will go closer to the Florida west coast or the east coast appear about even.
The storm has weakened a bit, down to 150 mph. There is opportunity for it to weaken a bit more if the circulation interacts with Cuba, but it could also restrengthen some over the Florida Straits south of the Keys.
The models overnight are split. The European model and some other behind-the-scenes models the National Hurricane Center uses – which have had the best accuracy so far with Irma – bring the eye of the hurricane with the worst winds closer to the west coast of the state than the GFS and some other models, which take it closer to the east coast. Both models and most imaginable tracks bring the core of the storm over the Florida Keys.
If the Euro track materializes, or anything like that, residents along the west coast of Florida who live near the water are in peril. Be sure you have taken all precautions to get away from areas that the Gulf may swamp in that scenario.
Taken together, the models and the NHC cone accentuate the fact that the entire state is at risk, and everyone needs to fully prepare for an unprecedented storm.
The threat is to Florida is EXTREME. This is not like any hurricane we have experienced in modern times. The closest is giant Hurricane Donna in 1960. This will be a long-duration event. You will have to be ready to stay in your safe spot for 12 hours or longer, depending on where the strongest winds track. Beyond the, the winds will blow hard for the best part of two days. It will affect the entire state, except the far western panhandle.
Even with excellent modern computer models, the exact track of the core of the hurricane, where the strongest winds occur, is critical, but not forecastable. We won’t know exactly who will be subject to the winds in the eyewall – forecast to be Category 4 – until hours before it happens. Outside the core, the winds will still be damaging, but not devastating. But damaging will will extend far from the eye.
We all need to prepare as if we knew 100% that the core of the hurricane were coming over our home, which means we prepare like we’re expecting Hurricane Andrew. Then we hope for the best. A jog of 25 miles, can make a tremendous difference.
Outside of the core, the very strong winds blowing over the water will drive the Atlantic into the east coast and the Gulf into the west coast. The west coast is extremely vulnerable to storm surge. Unless they get very lucky, life-threatening storm surge will occur from southwest Florida to the Big Bend. The surging water could go miles inland. Be very very careful not to remain in a dangerous location.
In South Florida, today is your last chance to prepare yourself and your family. What you do today can make a difference in the rest of your life. The decisions you make may be the most important of your life. Get to high ground if you live near the water. Find a strong building in which to ride out the storm. Park your car where it can survive flooding and flying debris.
The threat will expand north. I expect all of Florida except the Panhandle to eventually be under hurricane warnings. Do not be a victim. Take action so Hurricane Irma is an inconvenience, not a life-changing event.
Below are the important points from this morning’s National Hurricane Center advisory, followed by the preparation tips I included in yesterday’s post. Also, attached is the shopping list from Brevard County – except I recommend 7-days supply of food and water and an AM/FM portable radio.
NHC’S KEY MESSAGES:
1. Irma is an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane and will continue to bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards to the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas through Saturday. Heavy rainfall is still possible across portions of Hispaniola through today. Hurricane conditions will also spread over portions of the north coast of Cuba, especially over the adjacent Cuban Keys through Saturday.
2. Severe hurricane conditions are expected over portions of the Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys beginning Saturday night. Irma is likely to make landfall in southern Florida as a dangerous major hurricane, and bring life-threatening storm surge and wind impacts to much of the state. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for southern Florida, the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, and Florida Bay, while Hurricane Watches have been issued northward into central Florida.
3. A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for southern Florida and the Florida Keys. A Storm Surge Warning means there is danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, during the next 36 hours. This is a life-threatening situation. Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions. Promptly follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials. A Storm Surge Watch has been issued north of the Storm Surge Warning area
for portions of the central Florida coast.
4. There is a chance of direct impacts in portions of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, but it is too early to specify the magnitude and location of these impacts.
YOUR TO-DO LIST
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.
20. Think clearly and carefully.
This is it.