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Ground Report. Many well prepared people are now facing a crisis of a severely dangerous storm surge warning. CTH readers (Hi Ziiggii) will well note the Hurricane challenges specific to the West Coast and Southwest Gulf Coast community. These unique challenges that have not been tested in 50+ years – Well folks, this is it. The 130 MPH on-shore winds are timed to arrive with the incoming tide overnight on Sunday into Monday morning.
Due to extreme demand gasoline has been in short supply for the area South and West of Lake-O (Okeechobee) for five days. Approximately an hour ago, against the backdrop of the latest Hurricane Track -And Upward Projecting Storm Surge of 10 to 15 ft– South West FL officials just added almost a million people to the Mandatory Evacuation Area. People who were safe last night, based on previous projections, are no longer safe even if well prepared. Combine it all, and, well, FUBAR:
STORM SURGE: 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…
Cape Sable to Captiva Island…10 to 15 ft
Captiva Island to Ana Maria Island…6 to 10 ft
Card Sound Bridge through Cape Sable, including the Florida Keys…5 to 10 ft
Ana Maria Island to Clearwater Beach, including Tampa Bay… 5 to 8 ft
Let me be clear. It is impossible to hunker down near the coast in SWFL with 15′ of storm surge. It is understandable the mandatory evacuations would be expanded. Shelters are filling as fast as they can open. –Local News Link– This is the largest mass movement of people in South Florida History.
This morning we’ve been transporting people with pets inland. Desperate people. Well prepared people. Almost everyone was/is prepared for the 130+ MPH possible wind damage; but there’s no way to prepare for 15′ of water above ground level.
If these storm surge projections hold true, we are on the cusp of witnessing history. These coastal areas, and some even miles inland, have never seen anything like this. Florida Governor Rick Scott promises there will be enough shelters for the new influx of evacuees from the areas. These are massive and widespread population centers all along the West coast of Florida.
My prayers for everyone. Remain calm.
All of peninsula Florida is still expected to receive damaging hurricane-force winds. Nobody should let down their guard because of the storm’s interaction with the Cuban coast this morning. It is still a giant, tremendously dangerous storm of the type that peninsula Florida hadn’t seen since Hurricane Donna in 1960.
The forecast track for the worst of the storm is now squarely on the Lower Florida Keys and Florida’s extremely vulnerable west coast. Here’s what this means for the various parts of the state and surrounding states:
In South Florida from MIAMI TO THE PALM BEACHES, think Hurricane Wilma in terms of the wind. There will be an extended period from later today through tomorrow of strong, dangerous winds, but not the full-scale assault that would have happened if the eye had come closer.
In addition, however, flooding rainfall of a foot or more, plus rising sea water – storm surge of 5 feet or more in vulnerable low-lying locations – is still possible.
In the FLORIDA KEYS, it is a full-scale hurricane emergency. Key West is probably going to get its worst storm in modern history, and perhaps ever. Life-threatening weather conditions will overtake the Keys later today and peak tomorrow morning, although Florida Bay water will continue to rise after the center passes to the north. Ultimate hurricane protection is required for anyone remaining in the Keys. Be sure you have a solid high-elevation location to ride out the storm. The danger from rising water due to storm surge and rainfall, as well as wind, will be extreme.
In SOUTHWEST FLORIDA – the NAPLES-FT. MYERS-CAPE CORAL area, the potential exists for the worst hurricane in history. The core of Hurricane Irma, potentially with winds gusting over 150 mph or more, is going to come close. Buildings in Southwest Florida are not, in general, built to withstand these winds. As the peak winds approach the Gulf water will surge over the islands and the shoreline of the mainland, so it will be very difficult or impossible to move once the storm starts.
Once the eye goes by, the maximum surge – forecast to be 8 to 12 feet above the ground in low-lying areas – will move in from the Gulf. This is fast moving, destructive water. You cannot drive through it and you cannot stand in it. It will sweep buildings away. Storm surge is the deadliest hazard in a hurricane.
The water will surge miles inland in some areas – far up the Caloosahatchee River, for example – higher than you can imagine. It is critical that everyone makes it to high ground.
Ultimate hurricane protection is required in all of Southwest Florida. Be sure you are in an elevated location by tonight. Inside the house or building, prepare an interior hall, closet, or bathroom with as many walls between you and the outside of the building as possible. Have the food and supplies you need with you, so you don’t have to venture to other parts of the house or building during the peak of the storm.
Have mattresses handy as an extra layer of safety. Be ready to get under the mattress or use them to protect yourself from flying debris inside your house, if there is a breach of the outside wall or the roof.
Think about everything today. How are you going to entertain the kids? How are you going to take care of your pet? Take no chances. This is an extraordinarily dangerous situation.
Farther north on the WEST COAST OF FLORIDA – SARASOTA, TAMPA BAY, AND POINTS NORTH: The threat of deadly storm surge is real and increasing. It is essential that you get out of low-lying areas. Follow the local evacuation orders, which are still being issued.
On the current track, the wind will be fierce and damaging along the entire west coast. Review the steps listed above to stay safe if you are going to be near the eye of the storm, even well away from the water.