The southeastern United States is bracing for Hurricane Irma’s landfall over the weekend. The most recent projections have Irma turning towards Florida, where it will cross over and impact much of the western coast.
But Irma isn’t like other hurricanes; she’s still a category 5 and is wider than most hurricanes we see. Plainly stated, she’s enormous — nearly 400 miles across as of yesterday. Irma’s eye alone is around 1,337.16 square miles in diameter, large enough to completely blanket France and the state of Michigan completely. And Irma isn’t alone.
One weather presenter for Channel 4 news confirmed this, identifying that, “Hurricane Irma is so big that it would cover the UK and Ireland.”
Evacuation in Florida
Florida’s governor and emergency services are already in the process of evacuating several areas, including the western and eastern coasts, with many residents heading north into the safe zone beyond the border. A recent tweet from Meg Warner, CNN correspondent, contains a video with a press release via Governor Rick Scott, who is asking for a total of approximately 17,000 volunteers. Scott is also significantly concerned by what he believes an inability to help once the storm hits, and is urging people to move on now before highways become gridlocked.
Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Katia
Unfortunately, Irma isn’t the only problem facing Floridians and the southern United States; this is just one of a series of three hurricanes predicted to cross over the area in coming weeks.
Hurricane Jose, which is currently around 815 miles off the Antilles, is estimated to be at category 1 but continues to strengthen as it heads north over warm Caribbean waters.
Hurricane Katia, a category 1 hurricane, sits 210 miles east of Tampico, Mexico, where it is expected to languish for a short time before making landfall on Saturday.
All three hurricanes have the potential to cause devastation, but Irma is by far the most concerning for experts. As a category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, she carries wind speeds of 157 mph or higher — strong enough to tear the roof off most buildings (even those that are hurricane-proof.)
Here’s what the National Hurricane Center has to say about category 5 damage:
“Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”
This news is concerning enough, but what was most experts most concerned is the potential for Jose to significantly strengthen as it comes up the cost in Irma’s path. If Katia also crosses over the gulf of Mexico and heads for Florida, it would create a triple-whammy effect that would make rescue and/or disaster response extremely difficult.
If you’re in Irma’s path, we encourage you to plan for safety at all times. If you’re evacuating, do so as early as possible to avoid gridlocks on highways. Getting caught in the storm on a highway can be extremely dangerous, especially if you’re near the coast where roadways can flood.
If your area is evacuating, don’t try to be brave; your life is more important than your pride. Leave when evacuation is indicated. Irma isn’t like a regular hurricane, and thus, it’s impossible to predict just how severe the damage could be. Even if you’re in a well-built house or shelter, it may still be damaged or destroyed by high wind speeds.
If you’re weathering the storm in-land, you should still expect to prepare. Put together an emergency kit to tide you over for at least a few days to a couple of weeks; this will keep you fed and comfortable for as long as it takes disaster response teams to reach you. At the very least, be prepared for flooding.
Your kit should include:
- Water: At least one gallon per person per day or the ability to sanitize your own
- Food: Non-perishables for a minimum of several days
- Info: At least one battery-powered radio, such as a Weather one NOAA weather-alert radio
- Lighting: Flashlights, extra batteries, and/or lanterns
- Health: A fully-stocked first aid kit with medications for 90 days
- Contact: A loud whistle to signal for help (swimming whistles work)
- Air Quality: Dust masks to filter contaminated air
- Shelter: Plastic drop cloths and duct tape for quick shelter creation
- Sanitation: Moist towelettes, baby wipes, garbage bags, and hand sanitizer
- Tools: A basic toolbox with wrench, pliers, wire cutters, and other necessities
- Food Tools: Non-electric can opener, propane cooking stove, utensils
- Navigation: Maps (paper) with checkpoints indicated for food, rescue
- Extras: Cell phone, chargers, extra batteries (charged), and comfort items
Although a few of these items may seem excessive, they’re all important. Plastic drop cloths and tape, for example, can help you seal up a broken window. Having wire on hand can help you repair structural issues temporarily, and having tools allows you to turn water off at the source or fix a pump in an emergency.
Above all else, stay safe and never assume you can out-weather the storm, even if you have survival smarts. The wisest survivalists know that weather can be intensely unpredictable — there is no shame in knowing when Mother Nature has you beat.