Caribbean Islands Brace for Irma as Florida Prepares

As Houston and East Texas recover from Hurricane Harvey, an even stronger hurricane has formed in the Atlantic Ocean, headed to the Caribbean Sea, and likely Florida by this weekend, though there is uncertainty where it goes next.

3 minute read

September 6, 2017, 5:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr

"Hurricane Irma expanded into a 180mph 'superstorm' on Tuesday as officials warned of life-threatening winds, storm surge and rainfall in several Caribbean islands and emergency planners in Florida escalated preparations for a possible weekend strike," reports  for the Guardian.

"Irma’s peak intensity so far ranks among the strongest in recorded history, exceeding the likes of Katrina, Andrew and Camille – whose winds peaked at 175 mph," report Brian McNoldy, senior research associate, University Of Miami and Jason Samenow, The Washington Post'weather editor.

First to feel the effects of Irma will be a group of Caribbean Islands known as the Leeward Islands on Tuesday, with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Wednesday. The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and the southeastern Bahamas are also in the path of Irma.

“The chance of direct impacts from Irma later this week and this weekend is increasing in the Florida Keys and portions of the Florida peninsula,” the National Hurricane Center senior hurricane specialist Dan Brown said in his advisory.

Landfall expected in Florida Keys or South Florida by the weekend

On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) declared a state of emergency for all 67 counties in response to Irma.

"It is impossible to say with certainty whether Irma will track up along the eastern side of the Florida peninsula, the western side, or straight up the peninsula," add McNoldy and Samenow.

Beyond the weekend, the scenarios really depend on which side of Florida it tracks. But for now, it’s safe to say that the southeast United States, including the Florida panhandle, Georgia and the Carolinas, should also brace for potential impacts, such as flash flooding, storm surge and strong winds.

If Irma makes landfall as a Category 4 or higher in the United States, joining Hurricane Harvey, it will become the first time two storms so strong struck the United States in the same season.

And that's not all that's brewing in the Atlantic, warn Noldy and Samenow. " Tropical Storm Jose formed in the eastern Atlantic Tuesday morning. This storm is also predicted to intensify into a hurricane over the coming days, but the latest track keeps it away from land areas for the most part."

If you're thinking climate change must be playing a role, Samenow, The Washington Post's weather editor, explains in a perspective how climate change can exacerbate the effects of hurricane, Harvey in particular, though he doesn't mention if it affects the quantity of hurricanes, perhaps because it was published on Sept. 1. He lists them "from high confidence to low confidence:"

  1. By raising sea levels, climate change increased the rise in ocean water or storm surge when the storm came ashore and the coastal flooding that resulted.
  2. By warming temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, climate change intensified the storm’s rainfall.
  3. By warming temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, climate change intensified the storm’s peak winds.
  4. By slowing down the jet stream, climate change increased the likelihood the storm would stall and unload rainfall over the same areas.

His bottom line: "Climate change probably made Harvey a little worse. But you’re on shaky ground to say any less or much more."

Tuesday, September 5, 2017 in Guardian

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