Hurricane Irma - Analysis and Preparedness

Caribbean - Hurricane Irma Update 5: Recovery Efforts Ongoing Across Region

12 Sep 2017 06:31 EST

Hurricane Irma caused significant destruction as it moved through the northern Caribbean as a Category 5 storm Sept. 6-10. As of Sept. 11, at least 38 fatalities have been confirmed, and the death toll is likely to rise as recovery efforts commence across the region. It will likely take months - if not years - to rebuild infrastructure in some of the hardest-hit areas, including Barbuda, St. Martin/Sint Maarten, the Turks and Caicos, and Cuba.

Barbuda
The eyewall of the hurricane passed directly over the island of Barbuda; 90-95 percent of buildings have been destroyed, and about half the population has been rendered homeless. As of Sept. 10, one death was confirmed on the island. Nearly all residents were evacuated to nearby Antigua - which sustained far less damage - as Hurricane Jose approached. Barbuda was spared from more severe damage when the storm tracked north of the island Sept. 9-10. Barbuda has been declared uninhabitable; critical utilities and transport infrastructure have been rendered largely inoperable, and authorities believe that recovery efforts could take months or years.

Anguilla
Anguilla suffered severe damage during the passage of Hurricane Irma; one death was reported. About 90 percent of the territory's electrical system was damaged. Anguilla Electric (ANGLEC) is working to restore power to the island; however, it will likely take weeks or months before normal operations resume. ANGLEC's main headquarters and generating station sustained severe damage, which will slow recovery efforts. Restoration of water services will also take considerable time.

The UK's Royal Fleet Auxiliary delivered emergency aid to Anguilla shortly after the storm passed; engineers are assisting with power restoration, temporary shelter distribution, and clearing debris.

The government would like to have tourism, health, and educational services operational within six months, but full recovery could take two to three years. Most major resorts on the island escaped catastrophic damage.

St. Martin/Sint Maarten
Extreme damage occurred on St. Martin/Sint Maarten; at least 12 people were killed and hundreds were injured on the island. St. Martin's main hospitals suffered major damage, and over 100 people had to be evacuated to receive emergency care. Eight of 11 pharmacies were destroyed in St. Martin.

About 95 percent of buildings suffered extensive damage on the French side of the island, including several of the sturdiest structures such as the prefecture building, fire brigade barracks, and the police headquarters. Severe material damage also occurred in Sint Maarten.

Electricity, water, and fuel are largely unavailable on the island. Looting occurred after the storm passed, with armed criminals targeting homes, businesses, and hotel rooms. Approximately 1,600 tourists were evacuated, partly in response to security problems. Some US citizens were evacuated to Puerto Rico; Canadian citizens were transported to the Dominican Republic. A curfew was imposed, and soldiers and police started patrolling on Sept. 8, which has helped restore order on the Dutch side of the island.

Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) suffered considerable damage and remains closed to commercial flights. As of Sept. 11, Grand Case-Esperance Airport (SFG) was reopened in St. Martin, with children, families, and injured people being prioritized for flights out of the country.

US and British Virgin Islands
As of Sept. 10, eight fatalities had been reported in the US and British Virgin Islands; the death toll is expected to rise. The National Emergency Operations Centre in the British Virgin Islands was destroyed. More than 100 prisoners reportedly escaped when a prison was damaged on Tortola, and British police were sent to the country to help local police maintain law and order following reports of looting. Widespread power outages are ongoing, and communications are limited in both territories.

In the US Virgin Islands, St. Croix suffered considerably less damage than the islands of St. Thomas and St. John. Some people have been evacuated to St. Croix, which is serving as the staging ground for recovery efforts in the Virgin Islands. The US Virgin Islands Department of Tourism has asked visitors to postpone trips to St. Thomas and St. John due to extensive infrastructure damage in the islands.

A temporary base is being established at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (STX) on St. Croix to coordinate National Guard relief operations. Government offices resumed operations on St. Croix on Sept. 11; schools will reopen on the island on Sept. 12.

Severe damage occurred at ports of entry on St. Thomas and St. John, but ports are open to cargo traffic.

Puerto Rico
Efforts to restore power in Puerto Rico are ongoing. About 74 percent of customers had electricity as of the afternoon of Sept. 11, but an estimated 371,000 people were without electrical service. Some parts of the island may be without power for weeks or months, particularly in remote areas. Many hotels either have electricity or are operating backup generators. About half of the island's hospitals were at least partly operational as of Sept. 8. Some medical facilities may continue to operate on a limited schedule and/or only accept emergency cases. At least 60 patients have been transferred from St. Thomas and other hard-hit islands to Puerto Rico for medical care.

Culebra and Vieques were especially hard hit, and the governor has declared a disaster on both islands. Culebra's power system was largely destroyed; the electricity network on Vieques suffered substantial damage. Most people who moved to shelters ahead of the storm returned to their homes by the afternoon of Sept. 7. As of Sept. 11, government agencies were beginning to reopen; offices in areas still without electricity and/or running water will remain closed until service is reestablished.

All Puerto Rican ports are open for passenger processing and cargo transfers.

Hispaniola
Irma passed north of Hispaniola on Sept. 7. The cities of Nagua, Cabarete, Sosua, and Santiago de los Caballeros were among the hardest-hit areas in the Dominican Republic. Storm surge caused some damage in the popular tourist destinations of Cabarete and Sosua. Flooding, blocked roads, and property damage were mostly localized, and some areas were subject to electricity and telecommunications outages.

While Haiti was spared a direct hit from Irma, torrential rainfall caused flooding in northern departments. Several communities were at least partially inundated, with a majority of the flooding occurring in Nord-Est, Nord, Artibonite, and Centre departments. Over 8,000 people sought refuge in emergency shelters; damage assessments are ongoing, but could be delayed due to blocked roads. Significant agricultural losses have been reported in the north, and longer-term food security and humanitarian problems are possible. One hurricane-related fatality has been reported in Haiti so far.

Flooding on the Dajabon River caused a historically significant bridge connecting Haiti and the Dominican Republic to collapse on Sept. 7, but the implications for trade and logistics are minimal since the bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic for several years.

Turks and Caicos
Extensive damage occurred in the Turks and Caicos, especially on South Caicos Island. States of emergency are in effect on South Caicos and Grand Turk. Power and water were unavailable on Grand Turk, although the Provo Water company has started restoring water service to some areas. The country's sole electricity provider, FortisTCI, had restored electrical service to parts of Providenciales by Sept. 11. Flight operations resumed at Providenciales International Airport (PLS) on Sept. 11. Cellular services have also been restored to some areas. Authorities have warned the public to refrain from unnecessary driving due to flooding and downed power lines.

Cuba
More than 1 million Cubans and about 10,000 foreigners were evacuated from vulnerable areas before Hurricane Irma made landfall as a Category 5 storm in the Camaguey Archipelago late Sept. 8. Authorities had reported at least 11 fatalities as of Sept. 11; most of the deaths occurred when several buildings collapsed in Havana. Significant flooding occurred in some parts of the capital after very large waves overtopped the Malecon seawall. Most of Havana remained without electricity as of Sept. 11.

The El Pedraplen causeway that links mainland Cuba to Cayo Santa Maria has been partially destroyed, leading to water and fiber optic cable service disruptions in the cays. Varadero - Cuba's main resort town - reportedly suffered widespread wind damage, and protracted disruptions are possible in the tourism sector.

Bahamas
Major damage did not occur in the central and northern Bahamas due to the storm's westerly track and landfall in Southwest Florida. However, extensive damage occurred at Morton Salt on Great Inagua Island in the southeastern Bahamas. Many residences and government buildings also suffered roof damage on Great Inagua, Crooked Island, and several other islands in the southeast, but there were no fatalities, as the government had evacuated most residents before the storm arrived. Damage was reportedly limited on Andros Island. 

US - Hurricane Irma Update 5: 

11 Sep 2017 13:48 EST

Irma weakens to tropical storm in the southeastern US Sept. 11. Conditions improve in Florida; recovery operations commence.

  • Event: Tropical Storm Irma
  • Center of Circulation: Approximately 115 km (70 miles) east of Tallahassee, Florida
  • Maximum Sustained Winds: 56 kts (104 kph, 65 mph)
  • Affected Area: Southeast US (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina) (map)

Summary
Irma weakened to a tropical storm over northern Florida the morning of Sept. 11. As of 1100, the center of the system was approximately 115 km (70 miles) east of Tallahassee, Florida. Most of Irma's convection is to the north of the center of circulation; rainfall will continue to push into parts of Tennessee and North Carolina throughout the day as the center moves northwestward into southern Georgia and Alabama. Irma should continue to weaken steadily to a tropical depression by Sept. 12, and ultimately dissipate over the Tennessee Valley in the coming days.

The following coastal watches and warnings remain in effect (1100 Sept. 11):

  • Tropical Storm Warning: Anclote River to the Okaloosa/Walton County Line; North of the Volusia/Brevard County line to the South Santee River
  • Storm Surge Warning: South Santee River southward to the Flagler/Volusia County line; North of Bonita Beach to the Ochlockonee River; Tampa Bay

Dangerous storm surge will persist in coastal areas of central and northern Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. As of 1100 Sept. 11, the following water levels above normal tides remain possible:

  • Clearwater Beach to Ochlockonee River: 1.2-1.8 meters (4-6 feet)
  • South Santee River to Fernandina Beach: 1.2-1.8 meters (4-6 feet)
  • Captiva to Anna Maria Island: 0.9-1.5 meters (3-5 feet)
  • Fernandina Beach to Flagler/Volusia County line, including the St. Johns River: 0.9-1.5 meters (3-5 feet)
  • Anna Maria Island to Clearwater, including Tampa Bay: 0.6-1.2 meters (2-4 feet)
  • Bonita Beach to Captiva: 0.6-1.2 meters (2-4 feet)

Florida
Gusty winds will continue across Florida as Irma transits to the north. Tropical storm-force winds extended approximately 665 km (415 miles) from the center of circulation. Additional power outages and minor property damage will remain possible through at least Sept. 12. Many counties remain under flood and flash flood watches and warnings as of midday Sept. 11. A flash flood emergency is in effect into the evening of Sept. 11 in Jacksonville. Water levels along the St. Johns River are forecast to rise through at least 1400; floodwaters could reach up to 1.8 meters (6 feet) above ground level in areas immediately along the banks of the river, and up to 1.2 meters (4 feet) elsewhere. Authorities are urging residents in zones A and B near the St. Johns river in Jacksonville to evacuate due to the rising water. Locations that could experience flooding include downtown Jacksonville, San Marco, South Hampton, Landon Park, and Riverside. Protracted river flooding is anticipated on streams, creeks, and rivers throughout the state; portions of the Anclote, Hillsborough, Manatee, Peace, St. Johns, and Withlacoochee rivers will likely rise above flood stage for several days.

Most of the rainfall has subsided in Florida; however, lingering rain bands will continue to move through the state during the day Sept. 11. An additional 2.5-7.5 cm (1-3 inches) will be possible through Sept. 12, with the heaviest additional accumulations likely in northern Florida.

Despite stringent building codes in Florida, damage properties throughout the state sustained damage, particularly in the Florida Keys and southwestern areas near Naples. Cleanup operations are underway to clear debris and downed trees; some counties have prohibited entry to residents trying to return home until damage assessments can be conducted and hazards - such as downed power lines - can be cleared. Extensive power outages have been reported, with at least 6.5 million customers in Florida without electricity as of midday Sept. 11. Although power crews from outside the state have already begun restoration efforts, it could take days or weeks for service to normalize.

Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee
Irma will continue to produce heavy rainfall and tropical-storm force winds in much of Georgia and South Carolina through at least Sept. 12. Additional precipitation totals of 10-15 cm (4-6 inches), with localized amounts of up to 25 cm (10 inches) will be possible. The highest accumulations will likely occur in central and southern Georgia and southern South Carolina. Rainfall will continue pushing into Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina throughout the day Sept. 11; widespread accumulations of 5-10 cm (2-4 inches), with localized amounts of up to 15 cm (6 inches) will be possible through Sept. 13.

The heavy rainfall could cause flash and areal flooding on roadways, creeks, and rivers throughout the region. Thunderstorms could produce isolated tornadoes and waterspouts as heavy bands come onshore throughout the affected area. Gusty winds will probably lead to extensive power outages due to downed trees and power lines. Persistent onshore flow will generate rough seas and storm surge in coastal areas under storm surge warnings. Coastal flooding and dangerous rip tides will likely continue through at least Sept. 12.

Emergency Response
A state of emergency remains in effect for all counties in Florida, and the federal government has granted an emergency declaration for the state. State of emergency declarations are also in effect for parts of Alabama, Georgia, and South and North Carolina. On Sept. 8, Governor Rick Scott activated the entire Florida National Guard - which is composed of 7,000 members; up to 30,000 additional National Guard troops are on standby as needed for recovery efforts. At least 6.3 million Floridians were ordered to evacuate, and will likely start to return to their homes as damage assessments are conducted, and the safety of neighborhoods can be better ensured. As of Sept. 11, there are an estimated 590 emergency shelters open throughout the state.

The initial focus of recovery efforts in Florida will include power restoration, debris clearing, addressing fuel shortages, and ensuring the safe return of evacuated residents. Search and rescue operations will likely continue in the hardest hit areas, particularly the Florida Keys. It could be days before food and water can be safely distributed throughout the state.

Transport*
Hurricane Irma will continue to cause ground, air, and maritime transport disruptions throughout the southeastern US for several days. While major interstates in Florida are open, some lanes are blocked by floodwaters and debris. Secondary and rural roads, particularly those along the coast, could be impassable for several days until obstructions are cleared. Strong wind gusts have led authorities to close both the north- and southbound lanes of Sunshine Skyway Bridge, and the westbound lanes of the Courtney Campbell Causeway in the Tampa Bay area. All bridges are closed in St. Johns County; in Duvall County, Mathews Bridge, Hart Bridge, Main Street and Acosta Bridge, and all bridges over the Intracoastal Waterway were closed to traffic. High wind advisories are also in effect for the Escambia Bay Bridge (Escambia County), the Apalachicola River Bridge (Gadsden County), the Blackwater Bridge (Santa Rosa County), the Choctawhatchee River Bridge (Washington County)

Traffic and commercial trucking disruptions will remain possible along I-4, I-10, I-20, I-26, I-40, I-59, I-65, I- 75, I-85, and I-95 corridors; storm surge, sand, and debris will likely complicate travel along A1A in eastern Florida through the day Sept. 11. Washouts due to storm surge could also make driving difficult on US 1 in the Florida Keys. Secondary and low-lying roadways throughout the affected area will probably be inundated by floodwaters for several days following Irma's passage. Strong winds will continue to pose a hazard to high-profile vehicles.

As of early Sept. 11, the US Coast Guard maintains the following port conditions:

  • Port Condition Zulu (closed to all inbound and outbound traffic): Miami River; Port Canaveral; Port Everglades; Port Manatee; Port Miami; Port of Brunswick; Port of Fernandina; Port of Fort Myers Beach; Port of Fort Pierce; Port of Jacksonville; Port of Key West; Port of Palm Beach; Port of Tampa; Port of St. Petersburg; Port of Savannah; Port of Sarasota; all terminals/facilities in south Florida
  • Port Condition X-Ray (open to traffic, gale-force winds predicted within 48-hours): Port of Charleston

The Coast Guard will probably upgrade port conditions in the coming days, likely reopening facilities when seas calm and authorities deem that operations can be conducted safely.

CSX and Norfolk Southern are monitoring Irma's progress and have both prepositioned equipment and generators to ensure recovery efforts can commence quickly once weather conditions improve. Traffic destined for southern Florida is largely being held at various rail yards to reduce congestion in the region. Both rail services are urging customers to prepare for service delays, but have not provided estimates as to when normal operations will likely resume.

*Separate alerts are being issued for Irma-related flight disruptions

Advice
Use extreme caution in low-lying coastal areas, and near streams, creeks, and other waterways due to the high potential for severe flooding and storm surge. Charge battery-powered devices when electricity is available; restrict the use of cell phones to emergencies only. Power down mobile devices when not in use. Keep important documents in waterproof containers.

To the extent possible, avoid contact with floodwater. Observe strict food and water precautions in disaster areas, as water contamination of municipal water sources may be a problem. An increase in vector-borne diseases is possible where heavy flooding occurs; take precautions to avoid mosquitoes in these areas in the weeks ahead. Obtain any regular and necessary medications, and keep them in a waterproof container. Medications and medical supplies may be in short supply during the recovery phase and need to be kept free from contaminants.

Plan accordingly for protracted commercial, transport, and logistics disruptions in areas in the path of the storm, especially if vital infrastructure is damaged. If possible, avoid driving until weather conditions improve. Never drive on flooded roadways or around established roadblocks. Seek updated information on road conditions before driving or routing shipments through areas where flooding has occurred. Confirm flights before checking out of hotels or driving to the airport; clearing passenger backlogs may take several days in some locations.

Resources
Weather
US National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov
US National Weather Service: www.weather.gov

Emergency Management
Florida: www.floridadisaster.org
Georgia: www.gema.ga.gov
South Carolina: www.scemd.org
Alabama: ema.alabama.gov

Road Conditions
Florida: www.fl511.com
Georgia: www.511ga.org
South Carolina: www.511sc.org
Alabama: aldotits.dot.state.al.us/RoadConditions

Airports
Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson: www.atl.com
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth: www.flybirmingham.com
Charleston International: www.chs-airport.com
Columbia Metropolitan: www.columbiaairport.com
Daytona Beach International: www.flydaytonafirst.com
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International: www.broward.org/airport
Jacksonville International: www.flyjax.com
Miami International: www.miami-airport.com
Montgomery Regional: www.flymgm.com
Orlando International: www.orlandoairports.net
Palm Beach International: www.pbia.org
Sarasota-Bradenton International: www.srq-airport.com
Savannah/Hilton Head International: www.savannahairport.com
Southwest Florida International (Fort Myers): www.flylcpa.com
Tampa International: www.tampaairport.com

Utilities
Florida Power and Light: www.fpl.com
Georgia Power: www.outagemap.georgiapower.com
Duke Energy (Florida): www.outagemap.duke-energy.com
Duke Energy (Carolinas): www.outagemap.duke-energy.com
South Carolina Electric and Gas: www.sceg.com
Santee Cooper: www.stormcenter.santeecooper.com
Alabama Power: www.alabamapower.com
Alabama Electric Company: alaelectric.com
Central Alabama Electric Cooperative: caec.coop
North Alabama Electric Cooperative: www.naecoop.com

Related Advice: How to prepare for and survive a tornado.
Related Advice: How to prepare for a hurricane/tropical cyclone/typhoon.
Related Advice: Buildings damaged by storms present many health risks. Consider these before entry.
Related Advice: Post-flood Health Safety and Advice.
Related Advice: What to do before, during, and after a flood

US - Hurricane Irma Update 4: Irma Weakens as It Travels North across Florida; Severe Wind and Storm Surge Damage Likely

11 Sep 2017 06:31 EST

Hurricane Irma continues to weaken as its center of circulation moves north across the Florida Peninsula early on Sept. 11. As of 0500 EDT, the storm's center was located about 85 km (52 miles) south-southwest of Gainesville, Florida. Irma has weakened to Category 1 status, and is likely to weaken to tropical storm status by the time it reaches the Florida Panhandle by late morning on Sept. 11. Forecast models indicate that Irma's weakening should accelerate over southwestern Georgia the afternoon of Sept. 11 and will likely further degrade as it moves through central Alabama on Sept. 12. Even though it has weakened considerably since its first landfall, Irma remains a very dangerous storm due to its sheer size.

Major cities in the path, or proximity, of the eye include Albany and Columbus, Georgia. Because of the huge size of Irma's wind and rain bands, tropical storm conditions are expected throughout most of Florida, as well as Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina as the storm moves northwestward.

The following coastal watches and warnings are in effect (0500 EDT Sept. 11):

  • Hurricane Warning: Sebastian Inlet to Fernandina Beach; Anclote River to Indian Pass
  • Hurricane Watch: North of Fernandina Beach to Edisto Beach
  • Tropical Storm Warning: West of Indian Pass to the Okaloosa/Walton County Line; North of Fernandina Beach to South Santee River; South of Anclote River to Bonita Beach; South of Sebastian Inlet to Jupiter Inlet; Lake Okeechobee
  • Storm Surge Warning: South Santee River southward to Jupiter Inlet; Cape Sable northward to the Ochlockonee River; Tampa Bay

Weather Impacts
Despite stringent building codes in Florida, major damage to property and infrastructure is possible, particularly in the western portion of the state. Well-built frame homes could sustain severe damage with loss of roof structure and some exterior walls, and mobile homes could be destroyed. The strongest winds will move to the north of Orlando by daybreak. Regardless of the track, sustained tropical storm-force winds extend 350 km (220 miles) outward from the center of circulation. Nearly the entire Florida Peninsula and most of Georgia will experience tropical storm-force winds, with gusts exceeding 160 kph (100 mph) possible along the Gulf Coast, as Irma moves northward through Sept. 11. Irma will also spawn tornadoes; tornado warnings have already been issued in many areas of Florida. The combination of torrential rainfall, storm surge, and high winds has already resulted in power outages to nearly four million customers across southern Florida.

Life-threatening storm surge continues to be a serious concern, as coastal areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts could be subject to prolonged onshore flow through multiple tide cycles. Storm surge will likely result in widespread coastal flooding and beach erosion. As of the morning of Sept. 11, most winds were blowing from the east across Atlantic coastal Florida and coastal Georgia, causing significant surges along the Atlantic coastline. Some locations along the Gulf Coast have experienced sharp drops in tide levels as winds blow water out into the Gulf of Mexico; once the center of Irma passes, winds will shift and cause storm surges to occur in these areas. Rough seas will probably result in damage and destruction of marinas, docks, boardwalks, and piers. Prolonged storm surge will inundate low-lying streets and structures, including Naples, Fort Myers, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tallahassee, Panama City, and Jacksonville, as well as Brunswick and Savannah, Ga.

The following water levels above normal tides are possible:

  • Cape Sable to Captiva: 1.2-1.8 meters (4-6 feet)
  • Captiva to Anna Maria Island: 1-1.5 meters (3-5 feet)
  • North Miami Beach to Cape Sable, including the Florida Keys: 1-1.5 meters (3-5 feet)
  • Anna Maria Island to Clearwater Beach, including Tampa Bay: 0.6-1.2 meters (2-4 feet)
  • South Santee River to Fernandina Beach: 1.2-1.8 meters (4-6 feet)
  • Clearwater Beach to Ochlockonee River: 1.2-1.8 meters (4-6 feet)
  • Fernandina Beach to Jupiter Inlet: 1-1.5 meters (3-5 feet)

Authorities have released water from Lake Okeechobee, as they anticipate that rains from the system could raise the water level by about a foot. Officials from the US Army Corps of Engineers do not believe that the structural integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike will be compromised; however, wind could push some water over the structure. Communities along the southern half of Lake Okeechobee were told to evacuate as a precaution.

Irma will deposit huge amounts of rainfall across its impact area. The highest total storm accumulations will likely be in the Florida Keys, where total accumulations could reach 38-50 cm (15-20 inches), with some isolated areas receiving as much as 63.5 cm (25 inches). The western Florida peninsula is forecast to get total rainfall accumulations of 25-38 cm (10-15 inches), and the eastern Florida peninsula, 20-30 cm (8-12 inches). Lesser accumulations of 7.5-15 cm (3-6 inches) are possible in Alabama, northern Georgia, and southern South Carolina. The intense rainfall will almost certainly cause flash and areal flooding on roadways, creeks, and rivers throughout the region. Thunderstorms could produce isolated tornadoes and waterspouts as heavy bands come onshore throughout the affected area.

Emergency Preparations
A state of emergency remains in effect for all counties in Florida, and the federal government has granted an emergency declaration for the state. State of emergency declarations are also in effect for parts of Alabama, Georgia, and South and North Carolina. On Sept. 8, Governor Rick Scott has activated the entire Florida National Guard - which is comprised of 7,000 members; up to 30,000 additional National Guard troops are on standby as needed for recovery efforts. At least 6.3 million Floridians were ordered to evacuate. There are an estimated 530 emergency shelters open throughout the state; more than 116,000 residents have sought refuge in the shelters. As of Sept. 10, at least 24 counties have issued mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders, including Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, Desoto, Flagler, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, and St. Lucie. A full list of updated evacuation details can be found here. Those who choose not to heed the mandatory evacuation orders will not be ensured access to emergency services for the duration of the storm.

Florida Power & Light decided to preventatively shut down one reactor at the Turkey Point nuclear power plant in Miami-Dade County; due to changes in the forecasted track, the second reactor will stay online, and the St. Lucie plant will not likely need to be shuttered. While the reactor shutdown did not cause customers to immediately lose power, estimates indicate that Irma's impact could leave up to 5 million customers without electricity in Florida; as many as 2 million could be without power in Georgia in the coming days. It could take several weeks for crews to restore electricity in the hardest-hit areas.

Transport
Hurricane Irma is causing significant ground, air, and maritime transport disruptions throughout the southeastern US. Extremely dangerous driving conditions will affect most roads in Florida and southern Georgia - from south to north - Sept. 10-11. Secondary and low-lying roadways will probably be inundated by floodwaters; authorities have closed some roads and bridges to traffic, especially those along the Gulf Coast or in frequently flooded locations of urban areas. Standing water could block some low-lying roads for several days following Irma's passage. Strong winds will pose a hazard to high-profile vehicles, even long after Irma has departed. Most major airports in Florida have closed or have ceased operations while Irma transits the state; most operations will likely be suspended until Sept. 12 barring any necessary damage assessments. Flight delays and cancellations are highly likely at airports serving Atlanta (ATL), Charleston (CHS), Columbia (CAE), and Savannah (SAV) as the storm moves northward.

As of early Sept. 11, the US Coast Guard has set the following port conditions:

  • Port Condition Zulu (closed to all inbound and outbound traffic): Miami River; Port Canaveral; Port Everglades; Port Manatee; Port Miami; Port of Brunswick; Port of Fernandina; Port of Fort Myers Beach; Port of Fort Pierce; Port of Jacksonville; Port of Key West; Port of Palm Beach; Port of Tampa; Port of St. Petersburg; Port of Savannah; Port of Sarasota; all terminals/facilities in south Florida
  • Port Condition X-Ray (open to traffic, gale-force winds predicted within 48-hours): Port of Charleston

The Coast Guard will probably upgrade port conditions in the coming days, likely suspending vessel traffic until the storm passes and authorities deem that operations can be conducted safely.

Recommended Disaster Preparedness Measures:

Office:

1.      Stockpile 3 – 5 days’ food and water at the office in case shelter-in-place is required.  Recommend ¾ gallon of water per day per person.  Non-perishable food stuffs that do not require heating such as energy bars and de-hydrated meals.

2.      Flashlights with extra batteries.

3.      Wet-wipes, towelettes and blankets

4.      Determine a work from home order status.

5.      Activate Crisis Management Committee.

6.      Implement Business Continuity Plan as appropriate.

7.      Establish redundant communication plan with employees to provide updated corporate communications and in validating off-site employee safety, wellbeing.

Individuals:

1.      If possible, move out of the forecasted impact zone.

2.      If shelter-in-place at home stockpile 3 – 5 days’ food and water.

3.      Without power, you will consume more water, therefore it is recommended you plan 100 ounces of water per person per day.

4.      Non-perishable food stacks are the best to have on hand.

5.      Typically, once power goes out, a freezer can last 72-96 hours if un-opened before the food spoils.  Once the freezer is opened, eat or dispose of everything in it in a timely manner. 

6.      Ensure you have extra required medications on hand.

7.      Have extra Cash on hand.  Many times, in disaster situations Cash becomes king in procuring goods and services.

8.      Keep your identification and important papers secure and under your control; e.g. Driver’s License, Passport, Birth Certificate etc.

9.      Make sure you have flashlights with extra batteries, plenty of candles and matches.

10.  Check your First-aid Kit to ensure it is complete and includes:

  • Antiseptic wipes (BZK-based wipes preferred; alcohol-based OK)
  • Antibacterial ointment (e.g., bacitracin)
  • Compound tincture of benzoin (bandage adhesive)
  • Assorted adhesive bandages (fabric preferred)
  • Butterfly bandages / adhesive wound-closure strips
  • Gauze pads (various sizes)
  • Gauze rolls
  • Nonstick sterile pads
  • Medical adhesive tape (10 yd. roll, min. 1" width)
  • Blister treatment
  • Ibuprofen / other pain-relief medication
  • Insect sting relief treatment
  • Antihistamine to treat allergic reactions
  • Splinter (fine-point) tweezers
  • Safety pins
  • First-aid manual or information cards
  • Triangular bandage
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers

11.  BBQ grill can be extremely useful, be sure you have plenty of propane or charcoal.

12.  Establish a family communication plan to keep other family and friends informed of your safety and well-being.

Vehicles:

1.      Keep your vehicle(s) full of gas, with a good spare tire and jack.

2.      Stock your car with 3-days of food and water for all occupants. (see above average consumption guidelines)

3.      Carefully plan travel routes keeping to major thoroughfares.

4.      Advise other family and friends of planned evacuation route.

5.      Establish a communication check-in protocol to keep other family and friends informed of your location and status.

6.      Use of iJET Mobile App

 

US - Hurricane Irma Update 3: Irma to Make Close Approach/Landfall in Southern Florida

08 Sep 2017 06:31 EST

Hurricane Irma remains a Category-5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 280 kph (175 mph). As of 1700 Sept. 7, the center of circulation was located approximately 65 km (40 miles) south of Grand Turk Island. Forecast models are in strong agreement that Irma will continue transiting west-northwestward toward the southern Bahamas and northern Cuba through Sept. 9. Confidence in Irma's track past Sept. 9 is still low; ensemble forecast models (known as 'spaghetti models') continue to highlight the potential for the center of the hurricane to make landfall in southeastern Florida and move northward through the Florida Peninsula, or transit closer to - or just off - the eastern coastline Sept. 10-11 as a Category-4 storm. Irma will likely continue northward and approach Georgia or South Carolina Sept. 11-12, possibly as a weaker hurricane.

Some models continue to suggest that Irma could track along the northern coast of Cuba and eventually enter the eastern Gulf of Mexico; however, the likelihood of this happening has decreased. The chances for landfall along the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana are presently low. Based on current projections, the storm should not have appreciable effects on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM) Central or Western Gulf of Mexico planning areas.

It is still too early to determine if these projections are accurate since the path of the storm will be influenced by multiple factors, including its interaction with terrain in Hispaniola, the southern Bahamas, and possibly Cuba in the coming days. Storm tracks referenced by media are estimations based on available data, and the degree of uncertainty about landfall location increases when making longer-range projections. Since the extent of Irma's winds and rain are much larger than the forecasted track, the hurricane has the potential to affect millions of people and cause major business continuity disruptions throughout the majority of the Florida Peninsula. The following coastal watches and warnings are in effect:

  • Hurricane Watch (1700 EDT Sept. 7): Jupiter Inlet southward to Bonita Beach; Florida Keys; Lake Okeechobee; Florida Bay
  • Storm Surge Watch (1700 EDT Sept. 7): Jupiter Inlet southward to Bonita Beach; Florida Keys

Weather Impacts
Depending on its interaction with Hispaniola and Cuba, Irma could remain a strong Category-4 storm by the time it approaches Florida. Despite stringent building codes in Florida, major damage to property and infrastructure is possible; well-built frame homes could sustain severe damage with loss of roof structure and some exterior walls, and mobile homes could be destroyed.

Even if Irma tracks offshore of the Florida Peninsula, tropical storm-force winds extend 295 km (185 miles) outward from the center of circulation, and the wind field is predicted to become larger as the system moves northward. The majority of the Florida Peninsula will likely experience tropical storm-force winds as Irma moves northward through Sept. 11.

Additionally, life-threatening storm surge will be a serious concern, as coastal areas along the Florida Strait and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts could be subject to prolonged onshore flow through multiple tide cycles. Storm surge will likely result in widespread coastal flooding and beach erosion. Rough seas will probably result in damage and destruction of marinas, docks, boardwalks, and piers. Depending on the track of Irma, the most significant storm surge will likely occur where the center of circulation makes a potential landfall and areas to the northeast. Low-lying areas in the Florida Keys and near Biscayne Bay will likely experience significant storm surge and flooding, including portions of downtown Miami. The following water levels above normal tides are possible, especially if the surge coincides with high tide:

  • Jupiter Inlet to Bonita Beach, including Florida Keys: 1.5-3 meters (5-10 feet)

Authorities have begun releasing water from Lake Okeechobee, as they anticipate that rains from the system could raise the water level by about a foot. Widespread accumulations of 10-25 cm (4-10 inches) are likely in central and eastern Florida; the highest accumulations of over 30 cm (12 inches) are likely in the upper Florida Keys and coastal areas of southeastern Florida through Sept. 11. Lesser accumulations of 5-13 cm (2-5 inches) are predicted in the lower Florida Keys and along the Gulf Coast; however, these totals could increase depending on Irma's final track. Regardless of whether the system moves through the Florida Peninsula and loses strength or remains off the coast, extraordinarily heavy rainfall, storm surge, and significant flash and areal flooding could occur in Georgia and South Carolina Sept. 11-12. Hurricane-force winds could also occur along the coasts of both states. The intense rainfall will almost certainly cause flash and areal flooding on roadways, creeks, and rivers throughout the region.

Emergency Preparations
A state of emergency is in effect for all counties in Florida, and the federal government has already granted an emergency declaration for the state. Governor Rick Scott has activated 4,000 members of the Florida National Guard as of Sept. 7, and will likely activate additional members to assist with evacuations, sheltering procedures, and recovery operations. The following evacuation orders are in effect:

  • Broward County: Mandatory orders issued east of Federal Highway (including barrier islands); voluntary orders issued for mobile homes and low-lying areas
  • Collier County: Voluntary orders issued for Macro Island
  • Hendry County: Voluntary orders issued for low-lying areas, non-slab-built houses, mobile homes, and RVs
  • Miami-Dade County: Mandatory orders issued for Zone A, barrier islands in Zone B (Bal Harbour, Bay Harbour Islands, Golden Beach, Indian Creek Village, Miami Beach, North Bay Village, Sunny Isles Beach, Surfside)
  • Monroe County: Mandatory orders issued for all visitors and residents
  • Palm Beach County: Mandatory orders issued for Palm Beach Island
  • Pinellas County: Mandatory orders issued for Level A residents (including mobile home and special needs residents); voluntary orders issued for Level B and C residents
  • St. Lucie County: Voluntary orders to begin Sept. 7

Officials are working to distribute fuel to gas stations amid low levels and closures, particularly in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce, and Fort Myers-Naples areas. As of Sept. 7, a fuel ship is on route to the Port of Tampa to resupply the area, and fuel tankers are being escorted to stations. Individuals evacuating to emergency shelters within their county of residence are being urged to conserve fuel and take only enough gas as required to reach destinations.

Florida Power & Light announced that the Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear power plants will shut down ahead of Irma's arrival. While the specific shutdown time has not been publicized, operations will likely be halted by the evening of Sept. 8 at Turkey Point and by Sept. 9 at St. Lucie. The electric provider has also warned of prolonged and widespread power outages across the state; it could take several weeks for crews to restore electricity in the hardest-hit areas.

State of emergency declarations are also in effect for parts of Georgia, South and North Carolina. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has ordered the mandatory evacuation of Chatham County and areas east of I-95 starting Sept. 9. Authorities anticipate that additional evacuation orders are likely in the coming days as the storm track becomes more certain. Those who choose not the heed mandatory evacuation orders will not be ensured access to emergency services for the duration of the storm.

iJET Analysis:

Hurricane Irma will cause significant ground, air, and maritime transport disruptions throughout the southeastern US Sept. 9-12. The volume of individuals heeding evacuation orders in southern Florida has already resulted in congestion on area roadways, including I-75, I-95, US 1, and Florida's Turnpike. Contraflow restrictions could be introduced on certain roadways to facilitate evacuations. Traffic and commercial trucking delays are also possible on I-16 and I-26 in Georgia and South Carolina, especially if officials start to enforce mandatory evacuation orders for coastal communities. Officials in Georgia have stated that all lanes of I-16 between Savannah and Dublin, Georgia will be northbound for evacuation purposes starting Sept. 9. Secondary and low-lying roadways could be inundated by floodwaters; authorities might close some roads and bridges to traffic, especially those along the coast or in frequently flooded locations of urban areas. Standing water could block some low-lying roads for several days following Irma's passage. Strong winds will pose a hazard to high-profile vehicles.

Major airports in Florida are operating normally as of Sept. 7, but widespread delays and cancellations are expected starting Sept. 8. All commercial service at Key West International Airport (EYW) will be suspended the evening of Sept. 7, though no commercial carriers currently have flights planned for Sept. 7. American Airlines, the largest carrier at Miami International Airport (MIA), has canceled all of its flights at MIA, for Sept. 9 and 10. The carrier has also canceled all flights out of Fort Myers' Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL), Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), and Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) for those dates. Southwest Airlines (WN) will also suspend flight operations to and from FLL, RSW, and PBI from Sept. 8-10. Other carriers are likely to make similar blanket cancellations in the coming days. Depending on the track, flight disruptions will probably expand northward, including at airports serving Charleston (CHS), Columbia (CAE), Daytona Beach (DAB), Jacksonville (JAX), Orlando (MCO), Savannah (SAV), and Tampa (TPA).

As of Aug. 7, the US Coast Guard has set the following port conditions:

  • Port Condition X-Ray (open to traffic, gale-force winds predicted within 48-hours): Port of Key West; Port Canaveral
  • Port Condition Whiskey (open to traffic, gale-force winds predicted within 72-hours): Port Miami; Miami River; Port Everglades; Port of Palm Beach; Port of Fort Pierce; all terminals/facilities in south Florida; Port of Savannah; Port of Brunswick

The Coast Guard will likely upgrade port conditions in the coming days, likely suspending vessel traffic until the storm passes and authorities deem that operations can be conducted safely. 

Caribbean - Hurricane Irma Update 4: Category-5 Hurricane Irma Continues to Track Westward North of Hispaniola

07 Sep 2017 06:31 EST

Hurricane Irma continues to track westward north of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. As of early Sept. 7, the system was still a Category-5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 287 kph (178 mph). The storm developed into the strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 5, and substantial damage has occurred in the Leeward Islands and the US and British Virgin Islands. Major damage is likely on other landmasses in the path of the hurricane, despite a projected weakening trend as it passes close to the Turks and Caicos Islands, southeastern Bahamas, and Cuba before it approaches Florida in the southeastern US.

Watches and Warnings (0500 AST Sept. 7):

  • Hurricane Warning: Dominican Republic (Cabo Engano to northern border with Haiti), Haiti (northern border with Dominican Republic to Le Mole St. Nicholas), Turks and Caicos Islands, Southeastern Bahamas, Central Bahamas, Northwestern Bahamas
  • Hurricane Watch: Cuba (Matanzas Province eastward to Guantanamo Province),
  • Tropical Storm Warning: Dominican Republic (Cabo Engano to southern border with Haiti), Haiti (Le Mole St. Nicholas to Port-au-Prince), Cuba (Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas provinces)

Leeward Islands (Sept. 5-6)
Severe damage has occurred in the Leeward Islands, particularly on the island of Barbuda in Antigua and Barbuda, where the storm made landfall on Sept. 6. Initial aerial surveys have revealed that about 95 percent of all structures were damaged or destroyed on Barbuda, although the situation was much better on nearby Antigua. Severe damage occurred when the hurricane made landfall on Saint Martin/Sint Maarten. Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) is largely destroyed, and it will probably remain inoperable for at least several days. Severe damage and flooding was also reported on Saint Barthelemy and Anguilla. Communications with Sint Eustatius and Saba were lost on Sept. 6, although preliminary reports indicate that heavy damage also occurred on these islands. The Royal Netherlands Navy has sent two ships to the region to deliver aid, which should begin Sept. 7. The Statia terminal on Sint Eustatius was shut down before the storm arrived, but there have been no reports about damage at the facility.

Damage was limited in St. Kitts and Nevis. Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport (SKB) scheduled to reopen on St. Kitts (St. Christopher Island) at 1200 Sept. 7. American Airlines (AA) has suspended service to St. Kitts, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and St. Croix through Sept. 8. Other carriers have also suspended flights to and from the Leeward Islands, although services should resume quickly at undamaged airports once safety assessments are complete and power is restored.

The Leeward Islands are currently under threat from a second hurricane strike. As of early Sept. 7, Hurricane Jose was centered about 1,570 km (976 miles) east-southeast of Barbuda. The storm was forecast to strengthen into major hurricane and move through the same region where heavy damage occurred. While the center of circulation will probably not pass through the islands, tropical storm-force winds and heavy rainfall could cause further disruptions and complicate recovery efforts on Sept. 9-10.

US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico (Sept. 6-7)
The eye of Hurricane Irma passed through Virgin Gorda and the eastern British Virgin Islands on Sept. 6, causing extensive damage. Major flooding and wind damage was also reported on St. John and St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. A curfew is in place throughout the US Virgin Islands until 1800 Sept. 7.

The eyewall of Hurricane Irma passed north of San Juan around 2000 Sept. 6. Although the storm did not make landfall in Puerto Rico, very strong winds caused downed trees and power lines in San Juan and many other locations throughout the island. More than a million customers were without power as of early Sept. 7, and about 80,000 people also lost water service, but damage reports were not comparable to those coming out of the Leeward Islands.

Power restoration could take considerable time in some areas because debris was blocking roadways throughout the island. San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU) closed by midday Sept. 6. Flights may resume on Sept. 7 pending a damage assessment, but many airlines pre-cancelled flights scheduled for that date. Port Condition Zulu (full closure) remained in effect for all ports in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as of the morning of Sept. 7.

Dominican Republic, Haiti (Sept. 7-8)
The storm will pass north of Hispaniola, but hurricane-force winds are possible along the northern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Torrential rain could produce severe flooding, especially in Haiti. Flooding and mudslides could sever access to some hard-hit areas in Haiti, and humanitarian problems are possible, especially in northern departments where deforestation is a serious issue.

Significant delays and cancellations can be expected at airports in the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Sept. 7. Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) remained open as of the morning of Sept. 7, but most inbound flights were cancelled in advance.

Turks and Caicos, Bahamas (Sept. 7-8)
The storm will likely track very close to the Turks and Caicos and islands in the southeastern Bahamas. Destructive winds and storm surge will be a serious threat in the low-lying islands. A surge of up to 6 meters (20 feet) is possible in the Turks and Caicos, which - combined with very high waves - will likely inundate much of the territory. Catastrophic damage is possible, and all islands in the Turks and Caicos - as well as nearby Great Inagua Island in the Bahamas - are at risk. Substantial wind and storm surge damage may also occur on Mayaguana, Acklins Island, Crooked Island, Long Cay, and Long Island, as well as islands in the central Bahamas. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for islands in the southeastern Bahamas.

The hurricane will eventually affect the central and northern Bahamas, although it is too early to determine what islands are at greatest risk - with the exception of Ragged Island, which could be in the direct path of the storm. Hurricane warnings have been issued for all islands in the Bahamas.

Cuba (Sept. 8-10)
Forecast models are not in agreement about how close the storm will come to Cuba. Hurricane-force winds are possible in coastal areas of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, and possibly Matanzas provinces. Tropical storm-force winds will likely affect a much broader area, including Havana. Significant damage is possible along Cuba's northern coast, and protracted disruptions to the tourism and petroleum sectors are possible. Very heavy rainfall could also cause severe flooding and substantial agricultural losses. Nickel-mining operations could be affected if the storm takes a more southerly track and approaches eastern Cuba.

United States (Sept. 10-12)*
Until Sept. 6, model runs had consistently shifted the storm track westward, suggesting that Irma would move through the Florida Keys and make landfall as a major hurricane in South Florida. This is still possible, but more and more models indicate an increased likelihood for landfall near Miami on Sept. 10 and/or the coasts of Georgia or South Carolina on Sept. 11-12. It is too early to determine if these projections are accurate since the path of the storm will be influenced by multiple factors, including its interaction with higher terrain in Hispaniola and Cuba. Storm tracks referenced by media are estimations based on available data, and the degree of uncertainty about landfall location increases when making longer-range projections.

As of Sept. 6, Florida was under state and federal states of emergency, and individual counties had activated emergency operations centers to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Irma. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in Monroe, Miami-Dade, and Broward counties. Storm surge flooding is currently expected in the city of Miami - including downtown areas - and coastal communities along the Atlantic seaboard and Biscayne Bay.

States of emergency are also in effect in Georgia and South Carolina. As of early Sept. 7, the National Hurricane Center predicted that the storm would make a final landfall on the Georgia/South Carolina border near Savannah late Sept. 11 or early Sept. 12, possibly as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds over 177 kph (110 mph).

Caribbean - Hurricane Irma Update 3: Hurricane Irma Forces Numerous Airport Closures in Northern Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico

07 Sep 2017 06:31 EST

Hurricane Irma is causing numerous airport closures and widespread flight disruptions in the Caribbean region as the storm approaches the US and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The storm severely damaged several airports in the northern Leeward Islands the morning of Sept. 6, including Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), the main airport on Sint Maarten. SXM and airports on the neighboring islands of Anguilla and St. Barthelemy are closed; the reopening dates for the airports are not clear.

All airports in the US and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are closed to commercial flights as of the early afternoon of Sept. 6. All major airports in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas remain open, though airport closures are highly likely as Hurricane Irma moves west. Several US and Canadian carriers are operating extra flights to airports in the region through Sept. 7 to evacuate travelers.

Hurricane Irma is causing widespread flight delays and cancellations at all airports in the eastern Caribbean, including those that remain open. Delays and cancellations are almost certain to increase as the storm moves through the region.

Airport Status:

Puerto Rico Airports

  • San Juan Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU): Closed
  • Aguadilla Rafael Hernandez Airport (BQN): Closed

US and British Virgin Islands Airports

  • Beef Island Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (EIS): Closed
  • St. Croix Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (STX): Closed
  • St. Thomas Cyril E. King Airport (STT): Closed
  • Virgin Gorda Airport (VIJ): Closed

Leeward Islands Airports

  • Anguilla Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport (AXA): Closed
  • Antigua V. C. Bird International Airport (ANU): Open
  • Dominica Douglas-Charles Airport (DOM):Open
  • Guadeloupe Pointe-a-Pitre International Airport (PTP): Open
  • Sint Maarten Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM): Closed
  • St. Barthelemy Gustaf III Airport (SBH): Closed
  • St. Kitts Robert L. Bradshaw Airport (SKB): Closed

Dominican Republic and Haiti Airports

  • Port au Prince Toussaint Louverture International Airport (PAP): Open
  • Puerto Plata Gregorio Luperon International Airport (POP): Open
  • Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ): Open
  • Santiago de los Caballeros Cibao International Airport (STI): Open
  • Santo Domingo Las Americas International Airport (SDQ): Open

Turks and Caicos and Bahamas Airports

  • Freeport Grand Bahama International Airport (FPO): Open
  • Nassau Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS): Open
  • Providenciales International Airport (PLS): Open

Windward Islands Airports

  • Barbados Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI): Open
  • Grenada Maurice Bishop International Airport (GND): Open
  • Martinique Aime Cesaire International Airport (FDF): Open
  • St. Lucia Hewanorra International Airport (UVF): Open
  • St. Vincent Argyle International Airport (SVD): Open

US - Hurricane Irma Update 2: State of Emergency Active in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina ahead of Irma's Potential Landfall

07 Sep 2017 06:31 EST

Hurricane Irma has strengthened to a Category-5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 297 kph (185 mph). As of 1400 Sept. 6, the center of circulation was approximately 35 km (20 miles) east-northeast of Saint Thomas and about 150 km (90 miles) east of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Irma is moving west-northwestward, and is expected to continue that motion in coming days. The storm is forecast to pass near or just north of Puerto Rico during the afternoon or evening of Sept. 6.

Florida
A state of emergency is in effect for Florida, and highways statewide are operating without tolls. Irma is expected to veer northward Sept. 10 after tracking along the northern coast of Cuba. Tropical storm force winds are possible in the Florida Keys and South Florida early Sept. 9. Landfall is possible in the Florida Keys or somewhere on the southern part of mainland Florida Sept. 10-11. This forecast may change, but, if accurate, the system is almost certain to affect the entire Florida Peninsula as it moves northward. Depending on its interaction with Hispaniola and Cuba, Irma may still be a Category-4 storm by the time it approaches Florida; major damage to property and infrastructure is possible.

Mandatory evacuations for visitors to the Florida Keys began the morning of Sept. 6, and resident evacuation is scheduled to begin at 1900 the same day. All commercial service at Key West International Airport (EYW) will be suspended the evening of Sept. 7, though no commercial carriers currently have flights planned for Sept. 7. Monroe County officials have encouraged those on the Keys to begin leaving immediately. US Route 1 is the only road in or out of the Keys.

The Miami-Dade County Emergency Operations Center is currently activated at Level 1, meaning local authorities believe there is an imminent threat of a disaster. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued an order for residents with special needs to evacuate Sept. 6; Gimenez may issue a general evacuation order for those in storm-surge zones Sept. 7. Authorities have begun releasing water from Lake Okeechobee; they anticipate that rains from the system could raise the water level by about a foot.

In Broward County, authorities have ordered mandatory evacuations for those in coastal and low-lying areas as well as mobile homes. Broward County evacuations will begin Sept. 7.

Forecast models have consistently shifted Irma's track slightly west, and the system could enter the eastern Gulf of Mexico; however, the system is expected to make a northerly turn. This would put the Florida Gulf Coast and the Florida Panhandle at risk. Hurricane-force winds could affect much of South Florida for 24 hours or more, and the storm could cause major damage. Additionally, life-threatening storm surge would be a serious concern, as coastal areas along the Florida Strait and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts could be subject to prolonged onshore flow through multiple tide cycles. Depending on the precise storm track, this scenario would likely prompt evacuations in vulnerable areas in Palm Beach, Collier, Lee, and/or Charlotte counties, in addition to the standing evacuations in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Monroe counties.

Major airports in Florida are operating normally through Sept. 6, but widespread delays and cancellations are expected starting Sept. 8; Miami International Airport (MIA) will remain open until winds reach 30 kts (56 kph 35 mph). American Airlines, the largest carrier at Miami International Airport (MIA), has canceled all of its flights at MIA for Sept. 9 and 10. The carrier has also canceled all flights out of Fort Myers' Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), and Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) for those dates. Other carriers are likely to make similar blanket cancellations in the coming days. Port closures are likely, and contraflow restrictions could be introduced on certain roadways to facilitate evacuations.

Georgia-South Carolina
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued a state of emergency on the afternoon of Sept. 6. Georgia's governor, Nathan Deal, issued a state of emergency for the coastal counties of Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, and McIntosh the same day. The storm could turn northward after moving past the Turks and Caicos Islands, potentially making landfall along the coast of Georgia or South Carolina, but model guidance suggests that it will probably not veer northeastward away from the US Atlantic Coast - as is often the case with Atlantic hurricanes. High pressure over the Atlantic Ocean and the northeastern US could help steer the system toward Florida and direct the center of circulation into the Southeast region. Even if the system moves through the Florida Peninsula and loses strength, extraordinarily heavy rainfall, storm surge, and significant flash and areal flooding could occur in Georgia and South Carolina. Hurricane-force winds could also occur along the coasts of both states; port and airport disruptions would be highly likely in Brunswick, Savannah, and/or Charleston if this happens.

Gulf of Mexico
Some models suggest that Irma could track along the northern coast of Cuba and eventually enter the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The storm might then make landfall along the Florida Gulf Coast or the Florida Panhandle, but the chances for landfall along the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana are presently low. Based on current projections, the storm should not have appreciable effects on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM) Central or Western Gulf of Mexico planning areas.

iJET Analysis:

Prior to Sept. 6, models had consistently shifted the storm track westward, suggesting that the system could make landfall as a major hurricane in south Florida. This is still possible, but recent models indicate an increased likelihood for landfall along the southeastern coast of Florida Sept. 10-11 and/or the coasts of Georgia or South Carolina Sept. 11-12. It is too early to determine if these projections are accurate, as the path of the storm will be influenced by multiple factors, including its interaction with higher terrain in Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and Cuba. Storm tracks referenced by media are estimations based on available data, and the degree of uncertainty about landfall location increases when making longer-range projections. Regardless, Irma has the potential to affect millions of people and cause major business continuity disruptions.

Caribbean - Hurricane Irma Update 2:

05 Sep 2017 15:52 GMT

  • Event: Hurricane Irma
  • Center of Circulation: Atlantic Ocean, 440 km (273 miles) east of Antigua
  • Maximum Sustained Winds: 152 kts (282 kph, 175 mph)
  • Projected Landfall (Date): Leeward Islands (Sept. 6), Eastern Bahamas (Sept. 8), South Florida (Sept. 10)
  • Affected Areas: Leeward Islands (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Saba, St. Barthelemy, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin, Sint Maarten, US Virgin Islands), Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Turks and Caicos, Bahamas, US (Florida) (map)

Summary
Major Hurricane Irma strengthened to a Category-5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 282 kph (175 mph) early Sept. 5. The extremely dangerous system has become the strongest storm in the world in 2017. As of 0500 AST, the center of circulation was approximately 440 km (273 miles) east of Antigua in the Leeward Islands. The storm is projected to continue moving westward and pass very close to countries and territories in the northern Leeward Islands early Sept. 6.

Watches and Warnings (0800 AST Sept. 5):

  • Hurricane Warning: Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Saba, St. Eustatius, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, Saint Barthelemy, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra
  • Hurricane Watch: Guadeloupe, Dominican Republic (Cabo Engano to Haitian border)
  • Tropical Storm Watch: Guadeloupe, Dominica
  • Tropical Storm Warning: Dominican Republic (Cabo Engano to Isla Saona)

Leeward Islands (Sept. 5-6)
Catastrophic damage is possible in the northern Leeward Islands, particularly in Antigua and Barbuda, Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten, and Anguilla. The storm will pass very close to these islands, and destructive winds and storm surge of up to 1.8 meters (6 feet) are a near certainty. Torrential rainfall could cause life-threatening flash flooding and debris flows on volcanic islands throughout the region. Severe infrastructure damage is possible, and some islands may be inaccessible for several days after the storm passes due to damage to ports and airports.

US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico (Sept. 6-7)
The storm is currently forecast to track close to the US and British Virgin Islands and north of Puerto Rico. Hurricane-force winds will probably affect all these locations, but very heavy rainfall will probably cause the most problems in Puerto Rico, where a state of emergency is in effect. Storm surge may cause serious damage in low-lying areas in the Virgin Islands.

Dominican Republic, Haiti (Sept. 7-8)
The storm will likely pass north of Hispaniola, but hurricane-force winds are possible along the northern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Torrential rain could produce severe flooding, especially in Haiti. Flooding and mudslides could sever access to some hard-hit areas in Haiti, and humanitarian problems are possible, especially in northern departments where deforestation is a serious issue.

Turks and Caicos, Eastern Bahamas (Sept. 7-8)
The storm will likely track close to the Turks and Caicos and islands in the eastern Bahamas. Destructive winds and storm surge will be a serious threat in the low-lying islands. Severe damage is possible. All islands in the Turks and Caicos are at risk. Catastrophic damage is possible on Great Inagua and Ragged islands in the Bahamas. Other populated areas of the Bahamas that will likely experience hurricane-force winds include Mayaguana, Acklins Island, Crooked Island, Long Cay, and Long Island.

Cuba (Sept. 8-10)
Forecast models are not in agreement about how close the storm will come to Cuba. The hurricane is expected to reach the very warm waters of the Florida Strait, although it is currently unclear whether it will make landfall along the northern coast of the country. Hurricane-force winds are likely in coastal areas of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, and possibly Matanzas provinces. Tropical storm-force winds will likely affect a much larger area, including Havana. Significant damage is possible along Cuba's northern coast, and protracted disruptions to the tourism and petroleum sectors are possible. Very heavy rainfall could also cause severe flooding and substantial agricultural losses. Nickel-mining operations could be affected if the storm takes a more southerly track and approaches eastern Cuba.

United States (Sept. 10-13)*
A state of emergency is in effect in Florida. As of the morning of Sept. 5, the storm was expected to veer northward after tracking along the northern coast of Cuba. Landfall is possible in the Florida Keys and/or somewhere on the South Florida mainland. This forecast may be subject to change, but if it is accurate, the system will affect the entire Florida Peninsula as it moves northward. Irma may still be a Category-4 storm at landfall, and major damage to property and infrastructure is possible. Mandatory evacuations could be ordered in vulnerable locations, particularly in the Florida Keys and Miami-Dade County. The Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center will be activated on Sept. 6.

Model runs have consistently shifted the storm track slightly west, and the system could enter the eastern Gulf of Mexico, but it is still expected to make a northerly turn. This would put the Florida Gulf Coast and the Florida Panhandle at risk.

*Separate hurricane alerts are being issued for the US.

Advice
Activate contingency plans if operating in areas in the path of the storm. Consider evacuating low-lying locations or underdeveloped areas while transport services are still available. Seek information about hurricane shelters, and be prepared to move to one of these locations and shelter in place for up to 72 hours. Fuel vehicles, obtain emergency cash, and stockpile bottled water and non-perishable food as early as possible. Charge battery-powered devices while electricity is still available; utility companies will likely preemptively shut off power as the storm nears. Restrict cellular phone use to emergencies only once power is lost. Move away from the immediate coastline within 200 km (124 miles) of the center of circulation due to the threat of major storm surge flooding. Stay away from rivers, streams, and steeply sloped terrain due to the high potential for flash flooding and mudslides. Confirm flights before checking out of hotels or driving to the airport. Plan accordingly for protracted power, commercial, and transport and logistics disruptions in hard-hit areas.

Resources
National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov
Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency: www.cdema.org
Department of Disaster Management British Virgin Islands: www.bviddm.com
US Virgin Islands Alert: www.vialert.gov
Puerto Rico State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management: www.aemead.pr.gov
Dominican Republic Emergency Operations Center: www.coe.gob.do
Turks and Caicos Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies: www.gov.tc/ddme
Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency: www.bahamas.gov.bs
Florida Division of Emergency Management: www.floridadisaster.org

US - Hurricane Irma Update 1: 

05 Sep 2017 21:46 GMT

  • Event: Hurricane Irma
  • Affected Area: Southeast US (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina) (map)
  • Time Frame: Sept. 9-12
  • Impact: Potentially catastrophic property damage, evacuations, life-threatening flooding, widespread power outages, major transport and logistics disruptions

Summary
Major Hurricane Irma strengthened to a Category-5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 297 kph (185 mph) Sept. 5. The extremely dangerous system has become one of the strongest storms on record in the Atlantic Basin since 2005's Hurricane Wilma. As of 1400 AST, the center of circulation was approximately 290 km (180 miles) east of Antigua in the Leeward Islands. The storm is forecast to continue moving westward and pass very close to countries and territories in the northern Leeward Islands early Sept. 6. A US GFS model run on the morning of Sept. 5 indicated that the storm could pass through the Florida Keys and make landfall near Naples in southwest Florida on Sept. 11 before tracking northward. Due to the size and strength of the system, destructive winds and torrential rainfall could affect most of the Florida Peninsula.*

* Forecasts made this far in advance are often subject to considerable change, but the storm has the potential to become a major disaster that could affect millions of people and cause major business continuity disruptions.

Florida
A state of emergency is in effect for Florida, and starting at 1700 Sept. 5, highways statewide will operate without tolls. The storm is expected to veer northward Sept. 10 after tracking along the northern coast of Cuba. Landfall is possible in the Florida Keys and/or somewhere on the South Florida mainland. This forecast may be subject to change, but if it is accurate, the system is almost certain to affect the entire Florida Peninsula as it moves northward. Depending on its interaction with Hispaniola and Cuba, Irma may still be a Category-4 storm by the time it approaches Florida; major damage to property and infrastructure is possible.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is expected to order mandatory evacuations for visitors to the Florida Keys to begin early Sept. 6, and evacuation orders for residents are to follow at an unannounced time. Monroe County officials have encouraged tourists and residents alike to begin leaving the Keys immediately, to avoid traffic. US Route 1 is the only road in and out of the Keys.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is expected to issue voluntary evacuation orders for Miami-Dade County as soon as the evening of Sept. 6. Mandatory evacuation orders could follow. The Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center will be activated on Sept. 6.

Forecast models have consistently shifted the storm track slightly west, and the system could enter the eastern Gulf of Mexico, but it is still expected to make a northerly turn. This would put the Florida Gulf Coast and the Florida Panhandle at risk. Hurricane-force winds could affect much of South Florida for 24 hours or more, and the storm would cause major damage if the GFS model is accurate. Additionally, life-threatening storm surge would be a serious concern, as coastal areas along the Florida Strait and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts could be subject to prolonged onshore flow through multiple tide cycles. This scenario would likely prompt evacuations in vulnerable areas in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Monroe, Collier, Lee, and/or Charlotte counties, depending on the precise storm track. Tropical storm-force winds could reach the Florida Keys by late Sept. 9 or early Sept. 10.

Landfall in South Florida would probably lead to the suspension of flight operations at major airports throughout the region, and disruptions would spread to other airports as the system tracked northward through the Florida Peninsula. Port closures are likely, and contraflow restrictions could be introduced on certain roadways to facilitate evacuations.

Georgia-South Carolina
The storm could turn northward after moving past the Turks and Caicos Islands, potentially making landfall along the coast of Georgia or South Carolina, but model guidance suggests that it will probably not veer northeastward away from the US Atlantic Coast - as is often the case with Atlantic hurricanes. High pressure over the Atlantic Ocean and the northeastern US could help steer the storm toward Florida and direct the center of circulation into the Southeast region. Even if the system moves through the Florida Peninsula and loses strength, extraordinarily heavy rainfall, storm surge, and significant flash and areal flooding could occur in Georgia and South Carolina. Hurricane-force winds could also occur along the coasts of both states; port and airport disruptions would be highly likely in Brunswick, Savannah, and/or Charleston if this happens.

Gulf of Mexico
Some models suggest that the storm could track along the northern coast of Cuba and eventually enter the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The storm might then make landfall along the Florida Gulf Coast or the Florida Panhandle, but the chances for landfall along the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana are presently low. Based on current projections, the storm should not have appreciable effects on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM) Central or Western Gulf of Mexico planning areas.

Advice
Review contingency plans. Prepare as early as possible for potential evacuation from coastal areas in the path of the storm; fuel vehicles, and stockpile water, nonperishable food, and other essentials well in advance. Stock up on any regular and necessary medications, and keep these in a waterproof container. Medications and medical supplies may be in short supply following major storms and need to be kept free from contaminants. Keep important documents in waterproof containers, and take them with you if you leave. Plan accordingly for potentially lengthy power, communications, commercial, and transport and logistics disruptions.

Resources
National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov
National Weather Service (Key West): www.weather.gov/key
National Weather Service (Miami): www.weather.gov/mfl
National Weather Service (Melbourne): www.weather.gov/mlb
National Weather Service (Tampa): www.weather.gov/tbw
National Weather Service (Jacksonville): www.weather.gov/jax
National Weather Service (Tallahassee): www.weather.gov/tae
National Weather Service (Pensacola/Mobile): www.weather.gov/mob
Florida Division of Emergency Management: www.floridadisaster.org

Caribbean - Hurricane Irma Update 1

03 Sep 2017 23:35 GMT

  • Incident: Hurricane Irma
  • Center of Circulation: Atlantic Ocean, about 1,275 km (790 miles) east of Barbuda
  • Maximum Sustained Winds: 100 kts (185 kph, 115 mph)
  • Affected Areas: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Saba, St. Barthelemy, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin, Sint Maarten, US Virgin Islands (map)

Summary
Major Hurricane Irma is tracking westward in the Atlantic Ocean Sept. 3. As of 1700 AST, the center of circulation was located approximately 1,275 km (790 miles) east of Barbuda. Forecast models indicate that Irma will maintain Category 3 strength or even intensify slightly as it moves toward the Leeward Islands, likely making a close approach to Anguilla and Barbuda by Sept. 6. Forecasters believe the storm will move just to the north of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by Sept. 7, though the final track of the storm could vary considerably by then.

Hurricane Watches have been posted for the following areas:

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua
  • Barbuda
  • Montserrat
  • Saba
  • Saint Barthelemy
  • St. Eustatius
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Martin
  • Sint Maarten

Even if Irma does not make direct landfall, it has the potential to bring heavy rainfall, high winds, and dangerous storm surge to the northern Leeward Islands, especially Anguilla, Barbuda, and St. Martin. A close approach by this very large and dangerous storm puts most of the Leeward Islands well within the radius of tropical storm-force winds. Torrential rainfall over a short period could cause flash flooding. Mudslides could occur, especially in areas of mountainous terrain. Strong winds have the potential to knock out power and telecommunications, as well as cause significant property damage. The system will likely generate rough seas and minor storm surge along eastern-facing shorelines.

Transport
The hurricane will almost certainly disrupt air, sea, and land transport throughout the affected area. Secondary and rural roads could become inundated by flooding, especially low-lying roads. Bridges could be damaged. Mudslides may block some roads, particularly in the higher elevations. Flight disruptions are likely at airports across the eastern Caribbean; airlines could begin rerouting and canceling flights well in advance of the storm. Airports that could be affected include those serving Anguilla Clayton Lloyd (AXA), Barbuda Codrington (BBQ), F D Roosevelt (EUX), Golden Rock (SKB), Montserrat Blackburne (MNI), Newcastle (NEV), Princess Juliana (SXM), St. Barthelemy Gustaf III (SBH), St. Francois (SFC), and V.C. Bird International (ANU). Maritime ports throughout the affected could temporarily prohibit vessel traffic as the hurricane approaches.

Advice
Activate contingency plans if operating in areas in the path of the storm. Be prepared to move quickly to safety if serious flooding occurs. Stay away from rivers, streams, and steeply sloped terrain due to the high potential for flash flooding and mudslides. Do not attempt to drive on flooded roads. Seek updated local information on road conditions before driving long distances or routing shipments through affected areas. Charge battery-powered devices, and stockpile bottled water and nonperishable food in case prolonged electricity outages occur. Do not check out of hotels before confirming onward travel.

Resources
US National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov

Airports
Princess Juliana International: www.sxmairport.com
V.C. Bird International: www.vcbia.com

Hurricane Irma Strengthens as it Approaches Leeward Islands

Summary:

Major Hurricane Irma strengthened into a Category 4 storm in the early evening of Sept. 4. As of 1700 AST, the center of circulation was located approximately 790 km (490 miles) east of the Leeward Islands. The storm is projected to continue moving westward into Sept. 5, before turning west-northwestward later in the day. Irma is forecast to make a close approach to the Leeward Islands, possibly skirting the coasts of Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Anguilla during the night of Sept. 5-6. 

The government of Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency on Sept. 4 in anticipation of the storm. Hurricane Watches and Warnings have been posted for the following areas:

  • Hurricane Warning (1700 AST Sept. 4): Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Monserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Saint Martin, and Saint Barthelemy
  • Hurricane Watch (1700 AST Sept. 4): Guadeloupe, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra
  • Tropical Storm Watch (1700 AST Sept. 4): Dominica
  • Tropical Storm Warning (1700 AST Sept. 4): Guadeloupe

iJET Analysis:

Even if the storm does not make direct landfall, it could bring heavy rains, strong winds, and dangerous storm surge to the northern Leeward Islands, especially Anguilla, Barbuda, and St. Martin. A close approach by this very large storm puts most of the Leeward Islands well within the radius of tropical storm-force winds. Flash flooding could be brought on by torrential rainfall over a short period of time. Even areas near the coast that are typically dry will likely experience flooding. If peak surge occurs during high tide, water could reach 122-182 cm (48-72 inches) above ground in the U.S Virgin Islands except St. Croix, 61-122 cm (24-48 inches) above ground along the northern coast of Puerto Rico, and 30-61 cm (12-24 inches) above ground along the southern coast of Puerto Rico.

Mudslides could occur, particularly in mountainous areas. Strong winds could knock out power and telecommunications and cause significant property damage. The system will likely generate rough seas and minor storm surge along eastern-facing shorelines.

The hurricane will almost certainly disrupt air, sea, and land transport throughout the affected area. Secondary and rural roads could become inundated by flooding, especially low-lying roads. Bridges could be damaged. Mudslides may block some roads, particularly in the higher elevations. Flight disruptions are likely at airports across the eastern Caribbean; airlines could begin rerouting and canceling flights well ahead of the storm. Airports that could be affected include those serving Anguilla Clayton Lloyd (AXA), Barbuda Codrington (BBQ), F D Roosevelt (EUX), Golden Rock (SKB), Montserrat Blackburne (MNI), Newcastle (NEV), Princess Juliana (SXM), St. Barthelemy Gustaf III (SBH), St. Francois (SFC), and V.C. Bird International (ANU). Maritime ports throughout the affected locations could temporarily prohibit vessel traffic as the hurricane approaches. 

Hurricane Irma Forecast to Make Landfall in Florida

Summary:

Major Hurricane Irma continues to track westward through the Atlantic Ocean toward the northern Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico. As of Sept. 4, forecast models were coming into consensus about a more westerly track and potential landfall in the southeastern US. A US GFS model run on the morning of Sept. 4 indicated that the storm could pass through the Florida Keys and make landfall near Naples in southwest Florida on Sept. 11 before tracking northward. Due to the size and strength of the system, destructive winds and torrential rainfall could affect most of the Florida Peninsula.*

* Forecasts made this far in advance are often subject to considerable change, but the storm has the potential to become a major disaster that could affect millions of people and cause major business continuity disruptions.

iJET Analysis:

Hurricane-force winds could affect much of South Florida for 24 hours or more, and the storm would cause major damage if the GFS model is accurate. Additionally, life-threatening storm surge would be a serious concern, as coastal areas along the Florida Strait and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts could be subject to prolonged onshore flow through multiple tide cycles. This scenario would likely prompt evacuations in vulnerable areas in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Monroe, Collier, Lee, and/or Charlotte counties depending on the precise storm track. Tropical storm-force winds could reach the Florida Keys by late Sept. 9 or early Sept. 10.

Landfall in South Florida would probably lead to the suspension of flight operations at major airports throughout the region, and disruptions would spread to other airports as the system tracked northward through the Florida Peninsula. Port closures are likely, and contraflow restrictions could be introduced on certain roadways to facilitate evacuations.

The storm could turn northward after moving past the Turks and Caicos Islands and potentially make landfall along the coast of Georgia or South Carolina, but model guidance suggests that it will probably not veer northeastward away from the US Atlantic Coast - as is often the case with Atlantic hurricanes. High pressure over the Atlantic Ocean and the northeastern US should help steer the storm toward Florida and direct the center of circulation into the Southeast region. Even if the system moves through the Florida Peninsula and loses strength, extraordinarily heavy rainfall, storm surge, and significant flash and areal flooding could occur in Georgia and South Carolina. Hurricane-force winds could also occur along the coasts of both states; port and airport disruptions would be highly likely in Brunswick, Savannah, and/or Charleston if this happens.

Some models suggest that the storm could track along the northern coast of Cuba and eventually enter the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The storm might then make landfall along the Florida Gulf Coast or the Florida Panhandle, but the chances for landfall along the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana are presently low. Based on current projections, the storm should not have appreciable effects on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM) Central or Western Gulf of Mexico planning areas.

Preparing for a Hurricane

In most cases, meteorologists provide a fairly accurate forecast of where a storm will strike at least 36 hours in advance. Often, people in a storm's path will have three or more days to prepare. 

Preparations to take in advance of a storm - Personal

  • Learning the most likely hazards you will face if the storm strikes your area. Some locations are more vulnerable to storm surge (for example, low-lying areas near shallow bays) while others are more susceptible to wind damage or landslides (which can occur after significant rain). You could face the greatest threat from the building you are in, if it is poorly constructed.
  • Determining where you could go if it becomes clear that the storm will impact your area. You may decide to stay where you are (for example, if you are in a sturdy building on relatively high ground), or move to another building in the local area. You may also decide that leaving the area will be the best strategy; in that case, learn the best evacuation routes and find out in advance how congested they become during evacuations, and plan accordingly.
  • Once you know a storm strike is almost certain, buying enough bottled water to last a few days - whether you are staying or evacuating - and nonperishable food, such as energy bars, in case you become stranded. Also, ensure you have a flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Contacting someone out of the area and inform them of your plans (whether you are staying or evacuating).
  • Planning on the evacuation of pets as well. Most emergency shelters will not admit pets without proof of up-to-date vaccinations (such as a rabies tag).
  • Even a Category 1 storm can knock out communications systems, including cellphone towers. Do not assume you will be able to make calls or have Internet access during a storm. Depending on wind speeds and other conditions, local authorities may shut off electrical power hours before the brunt of a storm hits an area. Ensure you have a radio with extra batteries, and be prepared to live without electrical power and communications for a few days.

Preparations to take in advance of a storm - Business

  • Review and update emergency action plans well in advance of the storm. Consider conducting drills. Think about evacuating personnel to outside of the storm's area of impact. If there is any doubt as to the viability of a structure, evacuate ahead of time.
  • Stock up on nonperishable supplies and bottled water for essential personnel who must remain during the storm. Procure additional first aid supplies, insect repellent, ice, vehicle fuel, spare batteries, flashlights, radios, mobile phones, etc. Consider purchasing a few non-powered hand tools (hammer, nails, crowbars, wood, etc.) to have on hand.
  • Test emergency back-up power supplies and ensure there is plenty of fuel to operate a backup generator should power be knocked out for an extended period.
  • Secure buildings, or make sure building owners do so well in advance of the storm's approach. Remove or secure any equipment that could become airborne during a storm.
  • If possible, ensure that critical business operations can fail over to business units outside of the storm zone as needed.

Related Advice: How to prepare for and survive a tornado.

Related Advice: How to prepare for a hurricane/tropical cyclone/typhoon.

Related Advice: Buildings damaged by storms present many health risks. Consider these before entry.

Related Advice: Post-flood Health Safety and Advice.

Related Advice: What to do before, during, and after a flood

Hurricane Irma - Analysis and Preparedness

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