Allow me to apologize for not delivering a Facebook Live update yesterday evening. I am a teacher. My school announced today that it will be closed tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday, and possibly on Monday as well, depending on how drastically conditions deteriorate due to Irma over the next ninety-six hours. Thanks to my abruptly lightened schedule, however, I should be able to share more consistent weather updates from my area beginning Thursday morning and on through the remainder of the work week and into the weekend.
I could have posted another live video yesterday had I really been driven to do so. But I’ll be quite honest: with the projected track of Irma shifted every several hours, I am rather glad now that I didn’t spin my wheels to make another video, when whatever I would have said yesterday would end up becoming moot today, thanks for the 2:00 PM AST update from the National Hurricane Center.
Despite the ever-shifting imbroglio waged by various media outlets both large and small over the past forty-eight hours, I have consistently reminded my readers and fans that Irma had a modest but viable chance of missing Florida altogether. And now, armed with the latest data from the NHC, I feel confident enough to predict that we have already witnessed the worst that Irma will bring and that we should not experience anything near the intensity of what has already been faced by the various island nations in the Caribbean.
What Are The Facts?
The reason why I even bother to update my readers and fans is because you are the ones who told me you care. I have received numerous emails, texts, and private messages requesting news on the current situation in my area, so out of courtesy to those concerned, I want to keep you informed—minus the sensationalism the media seems to be invoking.
Let us, then, begin by asking the very important question, “What are the facts?”
Tuesday night I shared several facts about Hurricane Irma at the time. Today, more facts are known, thus expanding our discussion. I have listed the most important ones as follows:
Fact #1 – Hurricane Irma is still a Category 5 storm
Since being upgraded to Category 5 classification Tuesday morning, Irma has churned through several Caribbean island nations, and has amazingly sustained steady wind speeds of approximately 180 to 185 miles per hour. Eric Blake, a scientist employed by the National Hurricane Center, tweeted Wednesday afternoon that Irma has “maintained 185 mph winds for 24 hours – no Atlantic or eastern Pacific hurricane has ever stayed this strong for so long.”
And this announcement only came after Irma had been pronounced the most powerful Atlantic hurricane to form outside of the Caribbean.
Thus, we can safely say Irma is already a record-shattering storm, and she still has at least a week of potential in her before she eventually fizzles out.
Fact #2 – Irma’s first day of landfalls caused significant destruction.
Besides scooting past Puerto Rico yesterday afternoon and evening, Irma has yet to make landfall on the mainland of any major country. Nevertheless, her first twenty-four hours of landfalls have been truly catastrophic and disheartening. Irma began her rampage by striking the island nations of Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, and others, in addition to a string of overseas territories and departments managed by the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and France.
Several newspapers reported that Princess Juliana International Airport—one of the world’s most famous (and dangerous) plane-spotting destinations, located on the Dutch side of the island of Saint Martin—was destroyed yesterday, as it was ripped to shreds by the damaging winds of Irma.
Various sources have claimed that around ten deaths have been reported throughout the islands. The toll will likely rise in coming days. The island of Saint Martin seems to have the highest casualty rate so far, with six reported dead, and at least one casualty—a two-year-old child—has been confirmed in Barbuda.
It is still too early to confirm casualties from Puerto Rico, since weather conditions are still less than favorable for rescue and recovery operations to proceed in full swing. Governor Ricardo Rosselló said, “The winds that we are experiencing right now are like nothing we have experienced before. We expect a lot of damage, perhaps not as much as was seen in Barbuda.” He is now on the ground in highways and byways of Puerto Rico, assessing damages and interacting with constituents.
In the United Kingdom, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that officials in London are actively coordinating relief efforts with Britain’s various overseas territories and protectorates affected by the hurricane. On Twitter, he stated that the UK is “doing everything we can” and “has taken swift action and is providing support.”
According to the Caribbean News Service, Queen Elizabeth II sent a formal royal acknowledgement to the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Rodney Williams, saying, "Prince Philip and I have been shocked and saddened by the reports of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed or adversely affected by this terrible storm. Please convey my gratitude and good wishes to members of the emergency services and to those who are working on the rescue effort at this very difficult time for you all."
Fact #3 – Hurricane Irma has brought people from all walks of life together.
According to the Caribbean News Service, The Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda remarked on the devastation in his small island nation, saying, “My first words must be of thanks . . . There is no doubt that the Good Lord is on our side. We in Antigua have weathered the most powerful hurricane ever to storm its way through the Caribbean. And we have done so with stunning results.”
In his first public address following the storm, PM Browne celebrated the fact that all people present on Antigua during the storm survived, and confirmed that animals on the island had been protected as well. And while he described the destruction on the sister island of Barbuda as “unprecedented,” where “the entire housing stock was damaged,” perhaps the prime minister’s most touching assessment was this: “There was a chain of brotherhood and sisterhood that strengthened our collective resolve.”
Browne admitted that an evacuation of all Barbudans to the island of Antigua may be in order soon, considering that conditions in Barbuda are “barely habitable.”
Fact #4 –Impact in Florida is still not confirmed.
Even now, just under four days out from the projected landfall in Florida, meteorologists are still not certain whether or not the eyewall of Irma will make landfall on the mainland U.S. or not. At 2 PM on Thursday, many models showed Irma veering away from Florida altogether, possibly bringing winds just above a category one hurricane, while at 5 PM, models shifted her further west, heading straight up the Floridian peninsula.
Regardless of Irma’s ultimate position, experts are emphasizing that the biggest issues for Florida will stem from the storm surge and abnormally high sea levels, not so much the high winds. As a Category 4 storm, it’s true that the winds will be strong, but the storm surge accompanying the winds is going to become more of a talking point in the coming days.
Most counties on the Atlantic coast of Florida have issued mandatory evacuation orders for all residents and visitors in beachside communities. Every county from Monroe County in the Florida Keys up to at least Volusia County, have issued evacuation orders. At the time of this article’s initial publication, we have yet to confirm mandatory evacuations in St. John’s, Duval, or Nassau counties in Northeast Florida.
But the experts are now also predicting some good news. Unlike Harvey a couple weeks ago, Irma will not linger. As it stands now, Irma will be more of a “one-and-done” storm, with rains lasting no more than twenty-four hours in any given area in the state of Florida. Definitely a blessing for recovery efforts.
HOW DO THESE DEVELOPMENTS AFFECT FLORIDIANS?
The final outcome is still anyone’s guess. We need to continue sending our thoughts and prayers to those who have already lived through a nightmare with Irma, and those of us in Florida must now stand guard for whatever may head our way. If you haven't already, go out and get what last minute supplies you can. With storms like Irma, you can't easily second-guess the impact. Just be prepared. I took pictures in my local Wal-Marts and the aisles are becoming more sparse by the hour.
I just received word that Irma’s wind speeds have decreased slightly. Right now, top speeds are around 170 – 175 miles per hour, which is welcome news in these uncertain times. Landfall for Irma is still set for some time Sunday afternoon or evening, with the bulk of the storm passed by Monday evening.
My team is remaining on the ground in Brevard County for the entire event, and will continue to bring updates as we learn new information. Thank you for reading and have safe and blessed evening.
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