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Hurricane Irma: What We Know So Far

Posted by Francine Yulo | September 5, 2017

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the US remains vigilant for the brewing “extremely dangerous” category 5 hurricane that is expected to hit Florida and the Caribbean. The details of Hurricane Irma’s arrival have yet to emerge, but its looming presence in the Atlantic so soon after Harvey has drawn out proactive responses from authorities. Here’s what we know so far:

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FORECASTS

  • As the strongest hurricane to hit the Atlantic on record, Irma is set to bring maximum sustained winds of of up to 290 kph.
  • Storm surges between 7 and 11 feet are expected throughout the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico’s northern coast may see up to four feet.
  • Irma is also expected to bring anywhere between 4 and 12 inches of rain.
  • In the Caribbean, the storm is expected to make its presence felt in the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands by Wednesday, September 6. The Dominican Republic should expect Irma to arrive early on Thursday, September 7, while Turks and Caicos should start seeing its effects the next day. Irma may also hit Cuba and the Bahamas over the weekend.
  • The Florida Keys may see the hurricane approaching late on Saturday, September 9 or early on Sunday, September 10. Where the storm moves from there remains difficult to track.

EFFECTS

  • A state of emergency was declared across Florida soon after the storm was upgraded to a category 4 hurricane on Monday, September 4. A mandatory evacuation order was issued the following day for Monroe County. Miami, in particular, is a probable target, prompting Miami-Dade County officials to advise its residents in low-lying areas to start evacuating tomorrow.
  • Florida residents stocked up on essential supplies over Labor Day weekend, with emergency generators, plywood, and potable water already being reported in shortage
  • Ahead of its initially projected landfall on Thursday, September 7, the hurricane also prompted a state of emergency across Puerto Rico where several businesses have already closed up shop ahead of the storm.
  • The following airports across the Caribbean have been shut down ahead of the weather system’s arrival: Saint Maarten, Terrance B Lettsome International Airport, Auguste George International Airport, and Taddy Bay Airport in the British Virgin Islands. V.C. Bird International Airport in Antigua has also halted operations.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES TAKEN

  • The federal government has offered its full financial support, as Governor Rick Scott called for the execution of Florida's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. The National Guard has also reportedly been mobilized. The sunshine state has dealt with much worse, and Irma has already brought forth lessons learned from 2004, the Year of the Four Hurricanes.
  • The Puerto Rico State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management has activated its emergency plan and are working towards making relief funds available ahead of the storm. Power lines have also been inspected towards the reduced incidence of power outages. Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has confirmed that their distribution center in San Juan is fully stocked.
  • American Airlines has scheduled additional flights out of St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and Nevis. The carrier has also announced that it will waive any fees for ticket changes to destinations within the hurricane’s path.
  • Authorities in Antigua have ordered that sewerage be cleaned out in anticipation of heavy rain, while trees and shrubs are pruned to avoid disruptions to telephone and power lines.

OPERATIONAL BEST PRACTICES

  • Keep abreast of forecasts: predictive technology for storm surge models and other weather systems have been upgraded in the last decade, and the hurricane center’s public warning systems have also significantly improved.  
  • Transparency is key: master your information and rally your troops, staying proactive is still the best approach. For a more detailed rundown of what to do, revisit us here