Understanding the Unique Challenge to South Florida During Irma…

Taking a break to cool down in the AC and provide some understanding to the unique challenges the media appears to be missing for Hurricane Irma.

Florida is a long state peninsular 450 miles. In many logistical ways it’s more comparable to an island, with one-way in via land, from the North.

There’s never been a South to North Hurricane experienced or predicted like this.

The closest was Donna in 1960. There’s been massive population growth since then.

South Florida is attempting to evacuate North. Those who already left are running out of gas mid-state. Fuel trucks are needed mid-state to keep that traffic headed north. The fuel trucks headed into the state are stopping mid state, North of Lake O.  Port Everglades is an East Coast distribution hub for fuel via Atlantic side delivery for I-95 and Monroe County.

It is understandable, and entirely necessary; but those south of Lake O (on the West Coast) have been unable to locate consistent fuel supplies since this boxcar effect began two days ago. The state emergency teams are trying to keep the top of the line moving forward. Again, understandable. However, those South of Lake O are stuck without fuel. No-one’s fault, it’s just the way it is.  Millions of people.

Those of you who have been reading here for a few days will note the issues we outlined with a South to North Hurricane that tracks the West Coast of Florida. Unfortunately, the latest forecasts are predicting exactly that. Governor Rick Scott is trying to evacuate the South West Gulf Coast, however the fuel issues noted above are impeding that possibility.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is urging residents along the state’s Gulf Coast to get out of evacuation zones as Hurricane Irma’s path has moved slightly west.

During a news conference on Friday afternoon in Lee County in southwest Florida, Scott warned of storm surge which could be between 6 and 12 feet.

“You are not going to survive this if it happens,” Scott told residents. “Now is the time to evacuate.”

Scott says the state hasn’t closed southbound lanes on interstates because of the need to continue getting supplies into South Florida. But he says they’ve opened the shoulder of Interstate 75′s northbound lanes from Wildwood in central Florida to the Georgia line, north of Lake City. (link)

Here’s my earlier warning about this possibility; that now looms as a greater probability:

Both SW (gulf side) and SE (Atlantic side) Florida coasts have large population centers and thankfully neither coast has seen a lengthwise hurricane path in many decades. The worst case scenarios for Hurricane impact are within those possibilities.

♦Hurricane Andrew was a well-known catastrophic Cat 5 storm that hit the Homestead area South of Miami-Dade in 1992. However, that storm – as terrible as it was – was from East to West crossing the state and exiting in the Gulf of Mexico. Florida has not had a South to North full impact hurricane in your lifetime.

♦Hurricane Charley was a lesser known strong Cat 4 storm (150 MPH) which tracked into the Gulf of Mexico and crossed the state from West to East in 2004. Charley made initial impact through Upper Captiva Island (actually splitting the island in two) and hitting the mainland around Port Charlotte. However, despite it’s Cat4 power Charley was a tight and fast moving hurricane and the damage was severe but narrow in path.

I’m providing those two references to highlight that South Florida has not had a South to North path hurricane in multiple decades. There were probably less than two million residents in Florida the last time it happened; now there’s approximately 21 million.

For our friends in the Westward Keys and Southern Gulf Side (South West Florida), please pay particular attention to this current storms path. Unlike the Eastern coast of Florida the South West coast (Gulf Side) is primarily made up of recently populated “shallow water” Gulf barrier Islands. A Category 5 storm that skirts the Western coast of Florida, from Ten Thousand Islands Northward to Sarasota, and maintains inflow energy from the Gulf of Mexico, is a topography changing event.

Repeat: “A topography changing event.”

Shallow Water Coastal Vulnerability

In a scenario where Cat 4 or 5 Irma continues Northwest (current track), then takes a sharp right turn, Northward up the Southwest coast of Florida, well, the coastal vulnerabilities are almost too staggering to contemplate.

Beginning in the area of Everglades City and Ten Thousand Islands; northward through Marco Island, Naples Beach, Bonita Beach, Fort Myers Beach, Estero Island, Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Upper Captiva Island, Useppa Island, The Caloosahatchee River inlet, Pine Island, Cape Coral, Bokeelia, Matlacha, Boca Grande as far North as Siesta Key and into the intracoastal waterway would be almost unfathomable in the scale of how the coastal topography would change.

These Islands, while they may not be familiarly referenced as “barrier islands”, simply because decades have past and populations have developed them, are exactly that “Barrier Islands”. These shallow water gulf areas along the coast have not had severe storm surge disturbances for 60+ years.

The tenuous coastal and barrier island ‘ground‘ is crushed shell and sand, and their entire topography is subject to change as the shallow and severely churned gulf waters carry in sand/silt and excavate the same.

Just like 2004’s Hurricane Charley split an entire island (Upper Captiva) in less than 15 minutes, so too could entire coastal communities be split or covered in sand within a few hours. Bridges rising from mainland on one side could disappear into the new coastal Gulf of Mexico on the other, with the barrier island completely removed.

Nature is a powerful force.

2:00pm STORM SURGE analysis: The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The water is expected to reach the following HEIGHTS ABOVE GROUND if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide:

SW Florida from Captiva to Cape Sable… 6 to 12 ft
Jupiter Inlet to Cape Sable including the Florida Keys…5 to 10 ft
Ponce Inlet to Jupiter Inlet…3 to 6 ft
Venice to Captiva…3 to 6 ft

(Graphic Link)

There’s about 10-15 million people normally living in that pink storm surge zone.

 

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348 Responses to Understanding the Unique Challenge to South Florida During Irma…

  1. Pam says:

    Liked by 3 people

  2. missmarple2 says:

    Heard that Ave Maria University has opened it’s gymnasium as a shelter to residents in the surrounding area.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Oncefired says:

      I own 2 houses on Marco Island, one I let my Mother In-Law live in and the other near Tigertail Beach is one I am temporarily renting with plans of moving there in 2 years when the youngest son is off to college. Luckily my middle son was down visiting his Grandmom who is 81 and was able to drive her to Georgia to stay with Family last night. It has been a roller-coaster watching the track change everyday! Luckily I am insured to the hilt, so it was more important to get loved ones out of there and worry about property later! Being someone who can directly lose a lot, I just want to assure anyone else in the path, I Hope you left!…and You & Yours are in Our Prayers!

      Liked by 17 people

      • kinthenorthwest says:

        Have a friend in New York whose mother will NOT leave. At least you mother left.
        God Bless and pry all is well.

        Liked by 5 people

        • Oncefired says:

          My Mom In-Law was going to ride it out with friends who have a generator and a 2nd floor, but when I explained to her if the power goes out, there will be no city water and since the Island is not much higher then sea level, the sewer is a pressurized, pumped system, things would get bad within a day of no power. Luckily the deciding thing that made her leave was my 20 year old son was there to drive her to Stone Mountain, Georgia. They left at 4pm last night and did not get there until 12:30pm today. That is usually a 10 hour drive right up i-75, but took them 20+ hours

          Liked by 14 people

  3. NJF says:

    This is so frightening and heartbreaking.

    Praying for all of those in this storms path!

    Please, please get out of you can and be safe.

    🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏

    Liked by 6 people

    • wtd says:

      Yes, prayers…but not quite ‘heart-breaking’ – yet. It’s incredibly unnerving despite the fact I am not down in Florida or anywhere near Irma’s current path. Lots of friends and relatives live on or near the Gulf Coast and all have decided to stay put rather than seek safer ground despite all pleading. The Gulf Coast is popular with retirees – many with mobility limitations or tied down with the care of an aging loved one. I worry for the shut ins and those who rely on visiting nurse services or meals on wheels for regular nourishment. I’ve not heard any particular mention of how these folks will be looked after.

      Liked by 6 people

      • Oncefired says:

        On Marco Island there are Social Networks in the different neighborhoods where you can request contractor referrals or just talk with neighbors. My wife says the last week it has all been neighbors making sure everybody is evacuating and for those that have no where to go, they are being invited to go with other neighbors. Even pets are having accommodations being made for them.

        Liked by 12 people

      • shallbe4 says:

        These last 2 hurricanes may be the worst ever but the Governors in both states have been incredible. And our President wanted to make sure that the money he promised each state would be there for the people so he worked with the Democrats when it appeared that Republicans had no energy to make this happen. Sometimes we have the strength of tigers because those who can help us get through the unthinkable have not forgotten us. God Bless all who have suffered in each state. Our President will never forget his commitment to you.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Jimmy Jack says:

        I have been wondering about this as well.

        Like

  4. Kathy says:

    HURRICANE IRMA
    PET-FRIENDLY SHELTERS
    Lists for GA, FL, SC, NC … http://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/hurricane-irma-pet-friendly-shelters/

    Liked by 8 people

    • Kathy says:

      If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, you will find more links for individual states — with additional “shelter” information.

      Like

  5. Deplorable_Vespucciland says:

    Remember a couple of days before Harvey hit Texas we had convoys heading south from Ft. Hood pre-positioning assets in places like San Antonio. Have only read one eyewitness account just today of a huge line of military vehicles heading down I-75 almost to Gainesville. Florida governor has stated that National Guard units in neighboring states have offered to help if necessary. That is good news.

    Liked by 8 people

    • Gil says:

      He said fl has 7000 available natl guard troops activated in fl. This is so epic I think they will be activated a looong time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jimmy Jack says:

        I believe Texas had 11k so 7k didn’t sound like anywhere near enough to me. Maybe my numbers are off.

        Still, 7k +xLEO for millions doesn’t sound like great odds to me. I don’t think people realize how little help may be available to them.

        Like

    • labrat says:

      I saw a convoy of utility trucks headed south out of Maine last night.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Somebody says:

      I evacuated north on I-95. I saw massive convoys heading south. No military, but utility trucks, tree clearing trucks, fuel tankers, semi-trucks with what appeared to be huge tarp covered generators. Other semis pulling regular trailers, no idea what might be in them.

      This was early this morning 6:30-7:00am. Convoy went on for miles through southern Georgia. It stood out because there was hardly any traffic heading south until we passed that convoy

      Liked by 5 people

      • Kathy says:

        The utility crews will need temporary base camps, housing, mobile kitchens, etc., as they travel around Florida to restore power. That’s my guess for what’s in the regular trailers.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. pacnwbel says:

    A dear and widowed friend in Bradenton had to re roof her house after the last big windstorm. She has just sold her home and has plans to relocate in N.Dak. with her sister in three weeks time. I’m sure she didn’t count on Irma’s untimely arrival. My prayers are for her, plus all Floridians to come through this terrifying experience safely. Many lives, just as those have been in Texas, will be disrupted for months to come, we must not forget them.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. seventhndr says:

    Key West (Mallory Square) Live Cam

    Liked by 12 people

  8. amwick says:

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Alison says:

    Thanks, Sundance for explaining barrier islands, etc. It will be a human tragedy indeed if this hurricane lives up to its potential. We choose where we live, partly on outdoor amenities. We sometimes forget the potential natural consequences such choices bring.

    But to think of Florida as the peninsula it is, with many dwellings on surrounding barrier islands, and virtually one way out is scary indeed. I have no doubt this has been an extremely difficult challenge for those making decisions when Irma’s path cannot more specifically be determined.

    I pray for everyone bearing the brunt of this one, hope people will pull together in the aftermath, and not cast blame in the face of this record-breaking phenomenon. We can be #FloridaStrong with God’s love & our own determination.

    Liked by 10 people

  10. dayallaxeded says:

    For the sake of brevity, every “like” from me on these hurrimukane threads is a prayer for the commenter, the persons mentioned in the comment, and everyone in harm’s way. God bless and keep you all! Amen!

    Liked by 26 people

  11. Ivehadit says:

    Praying for you Sundance and for our Little Palm…
    https://www.facebook.com/LittlePalmIsland/

    Liked by 11 people

  12. History Teaches says:

    Pray for the best case outcome.

    Trying times, when the abstractions of politics must be temporarily be forgotten. Saving human and animal lives transcends the pettiness of the ‘never let a crisis’ cynical mindset.

    If the MSM turn these heart breaking natural disasters into partisan sniping they will earn even more contempt and distrust from the populace.

    Divine Justice will ultimately be meted out to those who try to take advantage of suffering.

    Liked by 9 people

  13. ALEX says:

    Latest image I saw showed it hugging top of Cuba much farther south then earlier track…That would be best case. Just some positive vibes from me, but that would be best case…

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Michael says:

    Sundance I admire your actions however I consider your work here “mission essential” and don’t want to contemplate the possibility your loss.

    Liked by 9 people

  15. History Teaches says:

    “never let a crisis go to waste” is the actual quote – straight out of the cess pool of Chicago politics.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. daughnworks247 says:

    Because of “the Great Hurricane”, my grandparents cancelled the tail end of their honeymoon to Key West/Havana in 1935, got stuck in Florida for weeks, told the story for years. As a young couple, the crisis threw them together and they developed a strong bond which lasted 58 years.
    Our eldest daughter was married last weekend in upstate NYC, they too cancelled their honeymoon, and headed home to their brand new St. Pete beach house. They decided to stay… worried about their large dogs. Talked to them this morning but this shift to the west changes everything.
    God Bless you Sundance.
    Kind treepers, I’m sure, will take care of your family. You worry about you and we’ll worry about you too.

    Liked by 11 people

    • AMK says:

      I love that your new son in law loves your daughter and dogs enough to cancel a honeymoon…and it continues a strangely beautiful family tradition! May they have stories to tell for years, also!
      Thanks for the positive story, I needed it!

      Liked by 4 people

  17. maga2004 says:

    Thanks so much Sundance for your insight. Hubby and I have lived in Central Florida for twenty years and were here for the hurricanes of 2004. We are confident that we can weather this storm, too. The waiting is the most nerve-wracking thing about it. We have a son that lives a few miles away with his family – he is an EMT so he is expecting to be away from home for 3 to 5 days – and another son that lives in Daytona with his wife. God is good; He will see us through.

    Liked by 11 people

  18. NYGuy54 says:

    I’m a little down. None of my Florida friends or family are leaving. All look like they are in a direct hit atea. One was telling hurricane jokes on Facebook. He lived through Andrew he can live through Irma he says. Maybe I’m worried about nothing.

    Liked by 7 people

    • One thing I learned the hard way again and again working in health care, humans are hard-wired for optimism. Nine out of ten stage 4 cancer patients are absolutely sure they will beat it. Some will, some won’t, and diseases don’t care about your positive attitude or your level of devout faith. Same goes for the forces of nature.

      People with compromised immune systems get a little cough and usually wait to treat until it becomes pneumonia, requiring a chest tube and hospitalization. In this case, people who have made it through one or more serious hurricanes assume all hurricanes are alike, that all are survivable with enough preparation.

      The sad fact is that it isn’t true. Every risky situation includes individual, unpredictable tipping points, and no two hurricanes act exactly alike, even those at the same intensity. Nobody gets lucky every time. We don’t all get the expected miracles. And some who guess wrong will die needlessly. Hopefully not many.

      Since this is human nature, there’s little you can do about it except pray, offer your genuine concern and share your resources if possible. You are correct to be worried. It’s a very dangerous event. I’ll pray for you to be strong enough to face hard truths without succumbing to despair. We will still hold on to hope. We can’t help it. It’s how we are made.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Ace says:

        I lived through a blizzard when in one day the snow was up to my neck (I’m 6 foot). There comes a time when all you can do is let it go and leave it to God’s will.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Jimmy Jack says:

      Rush seems to think so.

      I gotta say, I don’t understand the people who are so cavalier about this. It seems foolish to me.

      Like

  19. Howie says:

    I haz lived in Florida almost 70 years…Not buying this track.

    Like

  20. Texian says:

    Looks like I will be only 50 miles off again from my long range forcasted landfall and track for powerful hurricanes..

    All the prep lists left off the most important item..

    ..A Life Vest..

    Liked by 4 people

  21. Cuppa Covfefe says:

    Not sure how possible it is, but is there any chance to evacuate people by train? They can move an enormous number of people (or a large load) relatively quickly… provided they get there in time.

    Like

  22. Thank you for explaining this situation so thoroughly. Praying.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Howie says:

    Where it was sposed to got right, it takes a left.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Evelyn says:

    Husband weathered Donna in the Palma Ceia neighborhood of Tampa back in 1960. The bay did not come into their small house, but ocean fish were swimming in their yard, and they were pretty far from the bay. His older sister has newspaper clippings of downtown Tampa underwater. He has lots of boyhood memories of what it was like to live through Donna/the wind, the noise, etc. At one point his dad sent him out to the shed in their back yard for more batteries and he nearly got literally blown away by the wind.

    We live in the northeast now, and youngest son volunteered for FEMA duty if there is a need. He drives a truck and evidently FEMA sometimes contracts with trucking companies like his to haul supplies to disaster areas – it’s happened before. His terminal manager said they are short staffed at the moment so I’m guessing it’s probably unlikely they will send him, I guess we’ll see what develops. Fingers crossed and prayers said for all in Florida tonight.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. My parents have a condo in Naples where they spend the winter…currently there at their lake place in MN. Their upstairs neighbor called today to ask if they could store their car in their garage. Long story short, their neighbor sold their house in Boston and just moved down to Naples full time 10 days ago. They are going to ride the storm out. Told my parents to pray for them.

    Liked by 1 person

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