Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Jose is a Category 4 hurricane’

Hurricane Irma’s Surge Poses Major Risk to Florida

September 9, 2017

Low-lying areas brace for wall of seawater before Category 5 storm makes landfall on Sunday

Lines of cars on the northbound turnpike lanes near Wildwood, Fla., on Friday.
Lines of cars on the northbound turnpike lanes near Wildwood, Fla., on Friday. PHOTO: STEPHEN M. DOWELL/ZUMA PRESS

Hurricane Irma, the most powerful storm to take aim at Florida in decades, is on a path that presents the worst-case scenario for deadly storm surges and powerful winds when it strikes the state Sunday, threatening millions of homes and businesses.

Irma is a massive storm, covering an area more than double the size of Florida, and generating sustained winds of more than 150 miles an hour. It has already killed more than 20 people after flattening the Caribbean islands of St. Martin and Barbuda as it arced north toward Florida. The Category 5 hurricane’s impact could reach as far north as Indiana and Illinois, forecasters say, affecting about 50 million people.

Long lines of cars clogged Florida’s highways after authorities and forecasters implored the state’s 20.6 million people to leave low-lying coastal lands expected to be inundated by hurricane-driven seawater.

Storm surges, one of the most deadly threats of Hurricane Irma, can rise to 9 feet to 20 feet high, depending on whether the storm hits the peninsula from the Atlantic on the east or the shallower Gulf of Mexico to the west.

On Friday, forecasters adjusted the storm’s possible track more toward Florida’s west coast.

“If it comes in from the Gulf side, Tampa Bay could just get hammered and that really is one of the big catastrophic events we have been worried about for some time,” said Kyle Mandli, assistant professor of mathematics at Columbia University.

But Mr. Mandli warns the entire state could remain at risk if the hurricane tracks up the middle of the state and causes storm surges on both coasts, though those would probably not be as high.

With Irma now projected to make landfall in the Florida Keys about daybreak Sunday, weather experts say the flooding could begin hours earlier because surges from a hurricane start to hit land in advance of the storm’s center. The surge peaks as the hurricane eyewall crosses onto land, said Robert Bea, professor emeritus at the University of California’s Center for Catastrophic Risk Management. “We’re talking several hours of surge,” Mr. Bea said.

Storm surges, created when the high wind of a hurricane forces ocean waters onshore, account for half of the deaths and most of the destruction caused by the majority of hurricanes, weather experts say.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez cited a possible life-threatening storm surge when he expanded the county’s evacuation zone on Thursday, now affecting more 650,000 residents.

Much of the estimated $62 billion in U.S. damage from superstorm Sandy in 2012 was caused by the storm surge that slammed the Eastern seaboard, according to an analysis by the U.S. Geological Survey.  Storm surge was cited by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as the major cause of the $75 billion in destruction along the Gulf Coast from 2005’s Katrina, which leveled beachfront communities in Mississippi and inundated the city of New Orleans.

On Florida’s coasts, which will face the brunt of the hurricane’s destructive force, about 3.5 million residential and commercial properties are at risk of storm-surge damage and almost 8.5 million properties are at risk of wind damage, according to data provider CoreLogic.

The last Florida storm that was the size of Hurricane Irma, which intensified into a Category 5 storm late Friday, was Hurricane Andrew in 1992. That storm was originally classified as Category 4 but was reclassified in 2002 to a Category 5.

Catastrophe-modeling firm Karen Clark & Co. said a repeat of Hurricane Andrew on the same path as in 1992 would cause $50 billion in insured losses. The same storm directly hitting Miami today would cause more than $200 billion in losses, the firm said.

Miami, however, is protected by a rapid drop offshore thanks to the continental shelf, which is unlike Florida’s mostly shallow Gulf of Mexico coast. As a result, the surge hitting Miami is likely to be lower than if it moves along the Gulf Coast, according to NOAA.

The highest waves are typically centered on the leading right side of the storm, where counterclockwise winds in the Northern Hemisphere push the bulk of a hurricane’s destructive force. The surge waves are made even higher when they travel across shallow coastal waters, said Robert Bohlin, a meteorologist with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu.

Historically, the biggest storm surges in U.S. history have taken place in shallow Gulf waters. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 produced the nation’s highest recorded surge of 27.8 feet at Pass Christian, Miss. At least 1,500 people died in Katrina—many from the surge—and entire beachfront neighborhoods were washed away by the waves, NOAA officials said.

If Irma takes an unusual track—essentially up the length of the Sunshine State—hurricane experts aren’t exactly sure how the surge pattern will play out. If it shifts slightly to the west, much higher surge could inundate parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast, said Columbia’s Mr. Mandli.

“Even a shift of a few kilometers could be the difference between a huge disaster and something more manageable,” Mr. Mandli said.

Damage from a storm surge is considered flooding, which isn’t covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. Flood damage is largely covered by the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program, which provides homeowners up to $250,000 to repair a home and $100,000 for personal possessions.

Homeowners in high-risk flood zones are required by their mortgage providers to buy flood insurance, but consumers outside those areas often forgo the coverage.

Businesses can buy federal flood insurance, which covers up to $500,000 for damage to a building and $500,000 for its contents. Commercial-property insurance for large businesses often includes flood coverage.

Miami could face a major economic loss even with a smaller surge because it has such a high concentration of office buildings and other development near the coast, said Mr. Bea at the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management in California.

“Downtown office buildings there are not designed for surge,” Mr. Bea said.

With water weighing about 1,700 pounds per cubic yard, NOAA officials say extended pounding by waves could destroy a structure not designed to handle such force.

In Miami Beach’s South Beach neighborhood, Al Marin said he planned to stay put for Irma, despite a mandatory evacuation order covering Miami Beach and the departure of numerous friends.

“They all left town. They’re afraid,” Mr. Marin said. He wasn’t concerned about Irma’s potent winds, he said. “I’m more worried about the storm surge.” But not enough to abandon the beach.

Another concern is for the possibility of Irma’s high winds creating an inland surge on Lake Okeechobee, as happened in a 1928 hurricane when waves caused the large body of water north of Miami to overflow and drown at least 2,500 people in nearby cities. “If Okeechobee gets hit with rainfall and intense winds, it can cause another surge there,” Mr. Bea said.

Florida has been lowering the water level of Lake Okeechobee in anticipation of the storm, Gov. Rick Scott has said.

Corrections & Amplifications 
Hurricane Irma flattened the Caribbean islands of St. Martin and Barbuda as it arced north toward Florida. An earlier version of this article incorrectly named the island as Barbudo. (Sept. 8, 2017)

Write to Jim Carlton at and Nicole Friedman at

Appeared in the September 9, 2017, print edition as ‘Irma’s Surge Poses Big Risk.’


Irma lashes Cuba, with another hurricane in its wake — Connect to live feed

September 9, 2017

France 24

Latest update : 2017-09-09

Hurricane Irma is lashing Cuba and aiming for Florida after devastating several Caribbean islands, with Hurricane Jose following close behind. Follow our liveblog for the latest updates.

  • Hurricane Irma made landfall on the northern coast of Cuba early on Saturday after regaining Category 5 strength.
  • The powerful storm is expected to reach Florida next, where more than five million people have been told to evacuate.
  • Irma has left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean, with at least 22 people killed, according to the AP news agency. The dead include 11 on St. Martin and St. Barts, four in the US Virgin Islands and four in the British Virgin Islands. Three people were killed in Barbuda, Anguilla and Barbados.
  • Another Category 4 hurricane, Jose, is heading towards the Caribbean islands already devastated by Irma.

To follow the liveblog on a mobile or tablet device please click here.

The Latest: Irma Rakes Cuba as Category 5 Hurricane — Strong winds and heavy rain

September 9, 2017

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua — The Latest on Hurricane Irma (all times local):

2:20 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says the eye of Irma is moving over the Camaguey Archipelago of Cuba as a Category 5 hurricane.

The center says Irma made landfall there late Friday and has maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (257 kph). The hurricane is about 275 miles (443 kilometers) from Miami and moving about 12 mph (19.3 kph) toward the west.

In the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katia made landfall late Friday north of Tecolutla, Mexico and weakened to a tropical storm, with winds reaching 45 mph (72.4 kph).

In the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose is a Category 4 hurricane, about 240 miles (386 kilometers)east-southeast of the Northern Leeward Islands, moving roughly westward at 14 mph (23 kph)with winds reaching 150 mph.


12:35 a.m.

A newly strengthened Irma is taking aim at south Florida with 160 mph (257 kph) winds after battering Cuba and leaving more than 20 dead across the Caribbean, as another hurricane follows close behind.

Irma regained Category 5 status late Friday. Thousands of people in the Caribbean fought desperately to find shelter or escape their storm-blasted islands, and more than 6 million people in Florida and Georgia were warned to leave their homes.

Many residents and tourists were left reeling after the storm ravaged some of the world’s most exclusive tropical playgrounds, known for their turquoise waters and lush green vegetation. Among them: St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla.

Irma threatened to push its way northward from one end of Florida to the other beginning Sunday morning.


BBC News

Hurricane Irma: Cuba hit with strong winds and heavy rain

Palm trees sway in strong winds in Caibarien, Cuba. Photo: 8 September 2017
Hurricane Irma bringing powerful winds to Cuba. Reuters photo

Hurricane Irma is lashing Cuba with strong winds and heavy rain after devastating several Caribbean islands.

The category five storm made landfall on the Camaguey Archipelago, off the north-eastern coast.

But the Bahamas have largely been spared after Irma changed track.

In Florida, 5.6 million people, or 25% of the US state’s population, have been told to leave as the storm approaches. At least 20 people are known to have died so far across the Caribbean.

Irma, which strengthened in the last few hours, hit the Camaguey Archipelago late on Friday, threatening nearby coastal towns and villages.

This is the first time a category five hurricane has hit Cuba in decades.

At 03:00 GMT on Saturday, Irma had maximum sustained winds of 257km/h (160mph), the National Hurricane Center in the US said.

The eye of the storm was about 190km (120 miles) east-southeast of the Cuban fishing town of Caibarien.

A hurricane warning is currently in effect in the provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara and Matanzas.

Some communities have lost power, and communication is becoming increasingly difficult with towns in more remote areas, the BBC’s Will Grant in Havana reports.

Residents are hoping the storm will just glance the island before heading across the Florida Straits to Miami.

Even that, however, could bring dangerous flash flooding and storm surges in many populated areas, our Havana correspondent says.

Path of Hurricane Irma

Earlier, people tried to secure their roofs and move belongings from low-lying coastal areas to higher ground.

“There are really strong gusts of wind. It is pouring off and on, and the lights are out,” Anaida Gonzalez, a retired nurse in the Camaguey province, told Reuters.

About 50,000 tourists are fleeing or have fled Cuba, with resorts on the north coast now empty, the news agency reports.

A dolphin is prepared to be transferred from Ciego de Avila
Even dolphins, who entertain tourists in water centres, have been moved to safety. EPA photo
Why Hurricane could be worse for Florida than Andrew 25 years ago

Irma is expected to hit Florida on Sunday.

Brock Long, the head of the US federal emergency agency, warned that Irma would “devastate” either Florida or neighbouring states.

He said that parts of Florida would be without power for days.

“The entire south-eastern United States better wake up and pay attention,” he added.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said all Floridians should be prepared for possible evacuation, and issued a stark warning to those in threatened areas.

“We are running out of time. If you are in an evacuation zone, you need to go now,” he told reporters.

“Remember, we can rebuild your home, we can’t rebuild your life.”

Rose Brooks, who survived the storm that decimated Barbuda, describes the chaos

The death toll continued to rise on Friday in the Caribbean.

France’s Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said nine people were dead and seven missing in the French territory on St Martin, an island shared with the Netherlands, and St Barthélemy.

Another death – the second – has been confirmed in the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten.

French officials said six out of 10 homes on Saint-Martin were so badly damaged that they were uninhabitable.

US President Donald Trump spoke on Friday to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to extend his condolences and offer support, the White House said.

French, British and Dutch military authorities have deployed aid – including warships and planes equipped with food, water and troops – to their territories.

Reporting from another badly damaged island, Barbuda, the BBC’s Laura Bicker says the destruction there is worse than feared.

Which other areas have already been hit?

The island of Barbuda is “barely habitable”, says PM Gaston Browne
  • Turks and Caicos Islands: widespread damage, although extent unclear
  • Barbuda: the small island is said to be “barely habitable”, with 95% of the buildings damaged. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne estimates reconstruction will cost $100m (£80m). One death has been confirmed
  • Anguilla: extensive damage with one person confirmed dead
  • Puerto Rico: more than 6,000 residents of the US territory are in shelters and many more without power. At least three people have died
  • British Virgin Islands: widespread damage reported
  • US Virgin Islands: damage to infrastructure was said to be widespread, with four deaths confirmed
  • Haiti and the Dominican Republic: Both battered by the storm, but neither had as much damage as initially feared
British disaster relief troops in Anguilla
British troops have arrived in Anguilla to take part in the disaster relief operation. MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

Are there more hurricanes to come?

Another storm, Jose, further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, is now a category four hurricane, with winds of up to 240km/h (150mph).

It is following a similar path to Irma and already hampering relief efforts in some of the worst affected areas.

Residents of Barbuda, where 95% of buildings have been destroyed by Irma, have now left the island as Jose approaches.

Hurricane Katia, in the Gulf of Mexico, a category one storm with winds of up to 75mph, made landfall on the Mexican Gulf coast in the state of Veracruz late on Friday.

The storm is expected to weaken rapidly in the coming hours.

Are you in the region? Are you a holidaymaker unable to get a flight home or a resident who has been preparing for Hurricane Irma? If it is safe for you to do so, share your experiences by emailing

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