Officials Warn Of Vast Destruction As Irma Nears Direct Hit On Florida

Officials Warn Of Vast Destruction As Irma Nears Direct Hit On Florida

Even as forecasters remain uncertain on specific details, there is broad agreement that Florida will be hit hard when Hurricane Irma hammers the state over the weekend.

“Unfortunately, there is no way the United States is going to avoid another catastrophic weather event,” said Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather, who dubbed Irma a “monster hurricane.”

“There will be massive damage in Florida,” he said, calling Irma “the worst single hurricane to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.”

Officials are urging Florida residents to get out before Irma hits.

“I can guarantee you that I don’t know anybody in Florida that’s ever experienced what’s about to hit South Florida,” Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Friday. “They need to get out and listen and heed the warnings.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has urged residents to flee.

“If you’re told to evacuate, get out quickly. Based on what we now know, Miami-Dade will have major hurricane impacts with deadly storm surge … and life-threatening winds,” he said Thursday.

AccuWeather is predicting that storm surges, flooding and hurricane-force winds will rip through the state from Miami on the southeast coast to Tampa on the west coast.

“Irma remains a very powerful and destructive hurricane,” AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.

“Impacts within the projected path of Irma include life-threatening wind, storm surge and flooding rainfall hazards,” Kottlowski added. “Any land within 185 miles of the Irma’s center could see damage and any place within 50 to 60 miles of the center could experience catastrophic damage.”

The impact will be felt for months.

“This could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago,” Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, told Miami NBC affiliate WTVJ. 

“AccuWeather’s preliminary estimate of potential economic cost from Hurricane Irma in the U.S. is $50-100 billion,” Myers said. “If the eye passes right over Miami, then it will be even more.”

Irma’s path remains unclear. Forecasters expect the storm to turn to the north, but they are not sure where and when. The sooner the turn, the more likely the damage will focus on Florida’s east coast. The later the turn, the more of the state forecasters expect to be pummeled.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a storm surge of up to 10 feet for the Florida Keys and part of the Florida coast. Predicted rainfall is between 10 inches to 15 inches in parts of southeast Florida, while between eight inches and 12 inches are expected in northern Florida and parts of Georgia.

Although Irma is no longer generating winds of 185 mph that it did over the Atlantic, it is expected to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of about 150 mph. Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 storm when it devastated Texas and Louisiana.

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