After flattening much of the Leeward Islands, blowing our power supplies in Puerto Rico and leaving a trail of destruction through the Caribbean, Hurricane Irma is continuing its terrible progress through the region and is is expected to make landfall in Miami sometime this weekend.
Irma's 185+ mph winds left 90% of the dwellings on the island of Barbuda completely leveled and the island barely inhabitable, according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
Irma's power isn't expected to subside all that much as it moves through the Caribbean over the next couple of days, blasting several islands in its path before ending up in Southern Florida. Hurricane Harvey, which hammmered the coasts of Texas and Louisiana only a few days ago hit three times, unlike all previous hurricanes which have rapidly blown themselves out over land. If Irma does the same this will wreak havoc in Florida's heavily populated south.
Here is the latest from the National Hurricane Center:
Maximum sustained winds remain near 180 mph (285 km/h) with higher gusts. Irma is a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days.
FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS
INIT 07/0900Z 20.0N 68.3W 155 KT 180 MPH
12H 07/1800Z 20.7N 70.5W 150 KT 175 MPH
24H 08/0600Z 21.7N 73.1W 145 KT 165 MPH
36H 08/1800Z 22.3N 75.5W 140 KT 160 MPH
48H 09/0600Z 22.8N 77.4W 135 KT 155 MPH
72H 10/0600Z 24.5N 80.0W 130 KT 150 MPH
96H 11/0600Z 28.5N 80.5W 105 KT 120 MPH
120H 12/0600Z 33.0N 81.0W 75 KT 85 MPH...INLAND
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 50 miles (85 km) from the eye of the hurricane and storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles (295 km).
The combination of a life-threatening storm surge and large breaking waves will raise water levels ABOVE NORMAL TIDE LEVELS by the following amounts within the hurricane warning area near and to the north of the center of Irma. Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.
According to hurricane watchers, Miami looks increasingly likely to take a direct hit from a massive hurricane packing sustained winds of 150-155 mph.
More than 100,000 Miami residents have been instructed to leave their homes on barrier islands, including Miami Beach, and in low-lying mainland areas starting Thursday morning which has created a logistics nightmare at Florida's airports and on highway evacuation routes.
According to the Washington Post, airlines added flights earlier this week to accommodate a surge in demand but many have been canceled and airports have warned that operations will be halted once winds exceed 55 mph.
Late Wednesday, American Airlines announced it would begin winding down its operations in Florida and had canceled flights at its Miami hub as well as to airports in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Sarasota and West Palm Beach. In addition, it canceled a handful of international flights from Europe and South American that were scheduled to land in Miami on Friday.
Officials at Key West International Airport said they would suspend commercial operations at the end of the day Thursday, and Miami International Airport advised travelers it will halt operations at the airport when winds reach 55 mph. Generally, airlines do not operate in sustained crosswinds that exceed 35 mph, and the Federal Aviation Administration tower ceases operations after winds of 55 mph, the airport noted.
Of course, the added flights didn't stop Delta from taking advantage of the surge in demand from frightened travelers.
Meanwhile, as the Wall Street Journal points out, those looking to flee by car are facing similar hassles with long lines at gas stations...at least at the ones that have any gas left to sell.
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