Florida Bracing for Hurricane Irma

While storm waters are receding in areas of Texas and residents are trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey, Floridians are bracing for a monster storm as Hurricane Irma nears the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency has been declared in Florida and the US Virgin Islands. Irma is expected to approach just south of Miami as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 145 mph. The storm will then move up the Florida coast as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 mph.

As of 11 a.m. ET, Wednesday, the Category 5 storm’s eye wall was 140 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, with sustained winds of 185 mph and even higher gusts.

According to the National Hurricane Center, rough surf and dangerous marine conditions will begin to affect the southeastern U.S. coast by later this week

This Tropical Cyclone Guide from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides extensive information on the anatomy of a hurricane and ways to prepare.

Unlike tornadoes and earthquakes, hurricanes can be forecast several days ahead of landfall, giving residents time to take precautions:

  • Board up windows and secure loose items like patio furniture
  • Know where to go in the event of an evacuation and how to get there; establish an assembly point for family members to meet if separated, and choose one person everyone can contact with their whereabouts and status
  • Take shelter in a sturdy building; avoid isolated sheds or other small structures, open areas, hilltops, the beach or boats
  • If you are driving in heavy rain, try to safely exit the road, stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers
  • Never drive into flooded areas; if flood waters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground
  • Contact your local emergency management agency for information
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment, cords, metal and water
  • Listen for warning sirens, stay away from windows and exterior doors, and seek shelter in a bathroom or basement
  • Stay indoors until authorities tell you it’s safe to go outside
  • Hurricanes can cause massive flooding; learn more about that here
  • Learn about safe cleanup from local authorities, or visit www.cdc.gov

Tropical storms and depressions also can cause major damage. Even if a storm doesn’t reach the maximum sustained wind speed of 74 miles per hour to classify as a hurricane, the 39 to 73 mile-per-hour winds of a tropical storm, along with heavy rains and tornadoes, can cause loss of life and property.