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Preparing For Irma, Potentially Another 'Long-Lived, Major Hurricane'

Sep 5, 2017
Originally published on September 5, 2017 2:00 pm

Hurricane season is in full swing and another powerful storm is brewing in the Atlantic. Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, is expected to make landfall in the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico this week. Florida is also taking precautions for Irma’s blow.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young speaks with Jeff Huffman (@HuffmanHeadsUp), director and chief meteorologist of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, about Hurricane Irma.

Interview Highlights

On what meteorologists are seeing and expecting from Irma

“Well, it has plenty of potential to stay this strong for a long period of time. We began talking about it a week ago as it potentially being a long-lived, major hurricane. And it has now reached Category 5 status. I really don’t see anything, meteorologically speaking, that could cause significant weakening before it would possibly arrive to a landmass. So, the bottom line is Irma is a major storm, and until it hits land it will likely stay major category status.”

On tracks for the storm

“The track through the Greater Antilles or just north of there is going to be very precarious in the next few days. So, it will likely have a direct impact on the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, will likely get close enough to Puerto Rico for significant impacts there. And then it’s a bit questionable as we go up to Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, we’re talking Thursday and Friday, how much influence the island of Hispaniola and the island of Cuba may have on the storm. Right now the National Hurricane Center believes it will move somewhere between the island of Cuba and the Bahamas, which obviously is bad, because it will stay rather strong through its duration of the next five days.”

“This is one of the most challenging type of scenarios Florida’s emergency management has to endure to plan for.”

Jeff Huffman

On the strength of Irma and comparisons to Harvey

“Once we get to this time of storm, whether it’s 180, 150, 160, 200 [mph] — the wind impacts are gonna be significant. The surge impacts could be significant. Harvey’s rainfall was of course caused by the stalling of the storm. Right now, thankfully, we don’t see it completely stalling, but it will slow down on its approach. I want to point out Robin, also, when you talked about the evacuations — this will be a big challenge for Florida. This is one of the most challenging type of scenarios Florida’s emergency management has to endure to plan for, is a storm that might make a turn and move up the peninsula from its tip to its top. And that could cause a significant challenge for evacuees. We don’t even know which side of the peninsula it might hit right now.”

On the state of emergency order for Florida

“First of all, it just sets a precedent for everyone to start paying attention and listening and realize — I mean, even here where I work from in Gainesville, in inland parts of north Florida, people know it’s coming. I mean, store shelves are starting to empty. So I think that proactive action that the governor took just sets in motion all the plans, the plan that our emergency managers work on for years to come up with in case this would happen.

“I encourage all of those listening in Florida and surrounding areas to listen to authorities. We don’t need extra chaos and panic right now. We need to stay calm and listen to our authorities. They have been working for years on a plan for this type of scenario. You know, Hurricane Donna is an example of a track this may take, and that’s a storm that our emergency managers used to plan for. Donna was similar, Donna approached South Florida and then it was very unsure which side of the peninsula it was gonna make the turn to the north, and that poses a great challenge to the evacuation story because which coastline, which side of the peninsula do you evacuate first or second, and, you know, everyone has to go north. You can’t go east or west in this type of situation, you have to go north.”

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