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