South Florida braces for Irma’s ‘devastating hit’
Hurricane Irma left little doubt this week that it was coming for South Florida with Category 4 winds so formidable experts warned of complete destruction of mobile homes, killer storm surge, and widespread, long-term communication and power outages.
A slight shift to the west in the forecast track during the Thursday evening advisory from the National Hurricane Center put Florida in a worst-case scenario, with east coast cities facing the brunt of the most furious winds and Orlando also raked by Irma’s lengthy reach.
While forecasters said there was still a small chance that Irma would wobble into a position more favorable to the Sunshine State, their message was one of a life-threatening storm with far-reaching destruction.
“We’re talking about a devastating hit on Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach,” said Shahid Hamid, director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Insurance and Economic Research at the Extreme Events Institute. “If it’s coming for us, I’m leaving tonight.”
Hamid, who rode out Hurricane Andrew under a mattress in his bathroom as his drywall vibrated to near disintegration, said a rough estimate of damages from Irma is $100 billion.
As of the 11 a.m. advisory Friday from the hurricane center, Irma was a Category 4 with 150 mph winds and moving west-northwest at 14 mph.
Irma is expected to reach the tip of Florida early Sunday morning, with Palm Beach County beginning to feel hurricane-force winds before dawn Sunday. As of the Friday advisory, the track had not shifted far enough west to get Palm
Palm Beach lifeguard Kyle Vander Plaat removes a warning sign at Midtown Beach on Thursday, so it won’t become a piece of dangerous debris tossed by storm winds or rough surf.