The Eve of Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma started its turn to the north a couple of hours ago, as predicted. The storm has moved off the coast of Cuba and is headed toward Key West, FL. This will be my first experience feeling the full effects of a hurricane. I got a little taste of the power of hurricanes last October during Hurricane Matthew, but Orlando was on the weaker side of that storm. In the area where I live, I think the highest wind gust we had was 68 mph. Irma will be a completely different experience.
The strongest winds (outside of the eye wall) in a north-bound hurricane are on the northeast side of the storm. As Irma makes its way along the Florida Gulf coast and through Tampa/St. Pete, Orlando will be on the northeast side of the storm. Nobody knows yet exactly what we can expect here. A slight shift in the storm one direction or another could make a big difference, either good or bad. The last few updates have moved the path of the storm slightly farther west each time, so the eye keeps moving farther away from me. A big shift to the west isn’t likely at this point, but those of us here on the Florida peninsula can always hope this storm stays offshore.
Friends and family have asked me two questions repeatedly so far: 1. What’s the weather like there right now? 2. How bad is it supposed to get where you live?
The answer to the first question is, tonight was a beautiful night… but things are changing. Anyone who has ridden out a tropical cyclone of any kind before knows that it just has a different feeling to it. It’s hard to describe. Florida is always humid, but it’s almost like Florida humidity on steroids. You go outside and everything just feels wet instantly. The outer bands of Irma have arrived, and the wind has started to pick up with gusts to 30 mph right now. There is some heavy rain coming, and there will be a high risk here over the next two days for very weak, short-lived tornadoes.
The answer to the second question is, I’ll know tomorrow night. The storm is looking like it will weaken slightly more than was originally forecast, but winds here in the area around Walt Disney World could still gust over 100 mph. Sustained winds could possibly still be around 80-90 mph. Between Sunday afternoon and Monday night, the Orlando area is expecting to get around 14″ of rain, so flooding will be an issue in areas. I do not live in a flood plain, so that shouldn’t be an issue here. I also don’t live on the ground floor of my building, so I have no concerns with flooding.
A lot of people have sent me well wishes and have expressed concern for my safety. I very much appreciate everyone’s concern and positive wishes, but I ask that none of my family or friends who read this panic. This storm is going to be bad, but I am remaining calm. I have always been a “weather nerd”, and am more curious than anything. I am not scared, and I feel safe. I am prepared. I have food, water, and other supplies to last me for several days. I am more concerned for my friends who live along the coast, especially the Gulf coast. The biggest reason people die in hurricanes is because of storm surge. I really hope that anyone who lives in an area that is vulnerable to storm surge and flooding made the wise decision to evacuate.
As much as I am curious about what this storm could bring, I also am not stupid. I know not to take risks. I am in a safe place and will not be going outside until probably Tuesday.
At this point, there is not much else to say as far as an update. There will be occasional heavy rain and gusty winds overnight tonight, and a chance of a weak tornado. Starting early tomorrow afternoon, conditions here will start to deteriorate. It will get progressively worse throughout the day. Between 9 PM on Sunday and 5 AM on Monday is the time that people in the Orlando area are being told to “hunker down”. The worst of the storm will likely be around 2 AM on Monday here. I will try to write as many of these updates as possible throughout the storm, but widespread power outages are expected across Florida. If I lose power, I won’t be updating, obviously. If that is the case, then I will fill everyone in on the details of the storm after power is restored in my area.
Please keep sending positive vibes and prayers to everyone in the path of Hurricane Irma. It looks like the forecast will not change much now, but we can always hope for a miracle. I hope everyone in the path of this storm, especially everyone on the coast, stays safe!! While preparing for the storm this week, I was reminded several times of just how great this place is. I am proud to live in central Florida, and am amazed how people here never fail to pull together in times of need. We will all make it through this storm together! Irma may cause damage and destruction, but Florida will come out of this stronger and better than ever!