Ground report follows NHC update. Thankfully the slower forward progress has moderated the most severe and extreme Irma timing with SWFL tidal impacts. Unfortunately, Tampa and St. Pete are now in the direct impact path. Tampa Bay storm surge is a very serious concern.
At 1100 PM EDT (0300 UTC), the eye of Hurricane Irma was located near latitude 23.5 North, longitude 81.0 West. Irma is moving slowly northwestward away from the north coast of Cuba near 6 mph (9 km/h). A turn toward the north-northwest with an increase in
forward speed is expected through late Monday. On the forecast track, the center of Irma is expected to cross the Lower Florida Keys Sunday morning and then move near or along the west coast of Florida Sunday afternoon through Monday morning. Irma should then
move inland over the Florida panhandle and southwestern Georgia Monday afternoon.
Maximum sustained winds are near 120 mph (195 km/h) with higher gusts. Irma is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Irma is forecast to restrengthen a little while it moves through the Straits of Florida and remain a powerful
hurricane as it approaches the Florida Keys and the west coast of Florida.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles (110 km) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 205 miles (335 km). (more)
The storm is now close enough to gain insight from local weather radar. The best SWFL local weather coverage and radar is from NBC-2.com (LINK)
Every hurricane shelter in Collier (Naples), Lee (Ft. Myers), and Charlotte counties are full. Tens of thousands could not get into shelters, many of those people headed to the East coast of Florida to look for hotel rooms, or just ride the storm out a greater distance from the highest wind-field and surge.
However, there’s still almost zero gasoline available anywhere South of I-4. Today I was traveling to our staging area with ten 5 gallon cans of gas; and ended up pouring them all into the gas tanks of a few desperate families who were prepared for the storm, but not the massive storm surge announcement.
Here’s what’s visible from the area. The late mandatory evacuation area notice meant that many couldn’t get into shelters.
The worst issue still remains, there is little to no fuel South and/or West of Lake-O. PERIOD. Don’t believe the BS if anyone says different.
Myself (heading east) and another CERT member (who was coming south) took physical counts today and noted 133 stations without gas in: Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Hendry, Glades, Highland, Desoto, Sarasota, Manatee and Polk Counties. Only 4 were found with with limited supply able to provide fuel to customers.
This is a terrible and seemingly avoidable failure in logistics and planning that needs to be worked out quickly. How are evacuations supposed to work when people can’t find fuel in their neighborhood to drive inland to shelter? How can recovery efforts take place when there’s no fuel within 100 miles of the impact zone?
This has been an issue since September 4th; that’s almost six days without fuel in most gas stations. This issue needs to be solved quickly or recovery and rescue efforts will be impacted.
Our CERT team is planning to head back to the specific coastal areas, and specific neighborhoods, where we know people stayed hunkered down – just as soon as the backside storm winds drop and the storm surge recedes. Tentatively mid-day Monday.
All thoughts and prayers for these coastal communities is deeply appreciated.