by Richard Cameron
National Compass is monitoring another tropical storm coming on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, but this one is expected by the National Weather Service to be headed, not toward the Gulf Coast, but towards Florida and possibly Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Hurricane Irma is already threatening the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico is issuing hurricane warnings. Irma has been increased to Category 4 with winds of 140 miles an hour – but they could ramp up even higher, to Category 5 and some storm watchers predicting 150 mph. Weather officials believe that Florida will see effects of Irma.
Below is ABC News‘ visualization of Irma’s present position and velocity stats.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said there is an “increasing chance” that Florida and the Florida Keys will see “some impacts from” Irma later this week and weekend, although they are unable to gauge anything more particular at this stage.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency for every county to ensure that local governments have enough “time, resources and flexibility to get prepared for this dangerous storm,” according to a statement from his office. Scott said in the statement that Irma is a “life-threatening” storm and Florida “must be prepared.”
In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared.
In addition to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, are also all under hurricane watch.
Irma appears to be on a 5 day westward pattern beginning with the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean with the entire chain of islands possibly in her path, although at this point, meteorologists suspect Cuba and the Bahamas might be beyond its reach.
Nevertheless – the Bahamas and Cuba, being 4 days from Irma right now and given that storm tracks don’t always follow predictions, anything is possible even if not likely.
The National Hurricane Center issues the disclaimer that there is a factor of error and uncertainty in the forecast track and that it is less 3 days out, but greater 5 days out. The unpleasant reality for Florida however, is that whereas an island here and there in the path could conceivably dodge Irma – Florida cannot, it the storm holds force until it hits landfall.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricard Rossello said the U.S. territory is planning and preparing for catastrophe, including flooding and power outages. Rossello canceled schools for Tuesday, declared a half-day of work and reported government preparation of 456 evacuation centers on the island, which can shelter 62,000 people.