South Florida braces for Irma’s ‘dev­as­tat­ing hit’

Palm Beach Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By KIM­BERLY MILLER

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

An­dres Leiva / Daily News

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.

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