After Hurricane Irma emerged as a threat in the Caribbean and reached record speeds — with sustained wind speeds of 185 mph, she’s the second strongest hurricane ever recorded — Florida is treating this Category 5 storm with the utmost seriousness. As this CBS News report indicates, the state has issued a mandatory evacuation order for tourists in the Florida Keys. As of Wednesday evening, all Keys residents will also be subject to mandatory orders to scoot before the storm strikes. To complicate the situation, there’s only one road (U.S. Route 1) that leads out of the Keys, and the highway is guaranteed to be packed ahead of the projected mainland U.S. landfall.
Monroe County Emergency Operations Center Director Martin Senterfitt has the lowdown for the Keys:
“For the Florida Keys, if you were to create the worst case scenario that is what we are looking at. We’re emphatically telling people you must evacuate; you can not afford to stay on an island with a Category 5 hurricane coming at you.”
The storm’s current path projects a sharp northerly turn that virtually guarantees mainland Florida landfall this weekend. As Governor Rick Scott (who has declared a state of emergency for all Florida counties) tells ABC News in this clip, this could happen anywhere from Fort Myers to Miami (or even, as some outlets are pointing out, President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach). Scott’s warning is a dire one, for he points out that “it sure looks like it’s gonna barrel right down the middle” of Florida — as the first hurricane to make landfall in the state in a decade.
CNN reports that Irma is now passing over Barbuda in the Caribbean, and it’s headed toward Puerto Rico. Irma’s already taken a direct hit on Anguilla and St. Martin, where it has “destroyed the sturdiest buildings” on the island. These video clips show the full fury of Irma and the damage left behind.
Irma’s being described as “massive” across the board, and there’s a damn good reason why that’s the case. The storm has grown to the size of France, and as this graphic illustrates, Irma could easily dwarf the UK and Ireland.
Even worse, Irma’s not the only Atlantic threat right now. The ocean’s now hosting three named storms, including Tropical Storm Katia, which is impacting the Gulf of Mexico, and Tropical Storm Jose, which is east of Irma and is projected to become a hurricane within days. Although we’re currently sitting in the height of hurricane season, unusually warm waters are causing bigger storms than usual. And there may be more to come.