Hurricanes and Travel....
Hello everyone. For any who reads this blog, I would like to tell you that we are located in Key Largo, Florida, and right now we have a very unfriendly Hurricane Irma heading in our direction.
Many people are curious about Hurricanes, and a lot of people do not understand just how powerful these storms can be. They also do not realize how much of a pain it is to evacuate a 106 mile long chain of islands when there is only one road in and one road out.
Today is Tuesday September 5, 2017. Hurricane Irma is still a ways away, at least the eye is. So, why all the fuss? Well, I went to the grocery store and there is no water on the shelves, no canned meat, no canned soups. There were still veggies, but who wants to eat those.
The store was getting more water in, and the one item that everyone had was water. Which is a good thing. I am glad to see that everyone is preparing before it gets too late. Many times people wait, and that could leave you trying to run at the last minute which puts not only you, but our emergency personnel in even more danger than necessary.
Hurricane Irma, yea, she’s a beauty. She has an eye, the area in the center of the storm that has no convection, or wind movement, around 25-30 miles across, and winds hanging steady at 185 mph. Let’s put this in perspective for you. Florida is approximately 500 miles long and 160 miles wide. So, the storm has strong winds that extend out over a large area. No matter where this storm hits Florida, the whole state will be covered with bands. Yippy!
Katrina reached 175 mph sustained winds for at least one minute (that's how they say it's sustained. Has to be that speed for one minute straight). But it isn't the strongest storm ever. Irma is matching up with the Labor Day hurricane that hit the Florida Keys in 1935. That is saying something since the Labor Day storm is considered the second strongest storm based on wind speed only behind Hurricane Allen. Katrina was at its max 175 Mph, and Irma is already 10mph above that and gaining strength.
For the most part you can tell that we have some time. A few days to get the house boarded up, and water bought, and to make a decision. My philosophy has always been that during a category one or two storm, that I would stay in the Keys, but it looks like this one is going to make me run, but to where? The highest elevation in all of the Florida Keys is 18 feet above sea level. Most of Florida isn't that elevated. It is a low lying flat state, and Irma is projected to turn and run right up the Keys and then all the way up the state.
For any of the tourists that are ever in a situation with a tropical storm or a hurricane, let me tell you. I would rather be safe than sorry. If you have a chance to get out of an area that is possibly going to get hit, then do so. If you are in our amazing Florida Keys, try to make it to an area on the mainland where you are higher in elevation. Buy whatever you need if you are driving, fill up with fuel (we do get fuel shortages during storms), and get as close to home as you can. If you are flying, try and get the airlines to change your flight. Many will add extra flights out to try and get you home and safe. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic had many extra flights to try and get everyone out before there was a risk from the storm.
Even for us locals, it is better to save what you can, and try and make it to a safe location. Higher elevation and supplies are a necessity. Make sure that you have your cell phone, a charger, and any personal papers (marriage license, passport, cash, vehicle insurance information etc.)
On a personal note, I am not looking forward to this storm. It is a very dangerous storm, and it doesn’t look like it is going to reduce it strength all that much before it decides to pay us a visit. So, everyone, our lovely visitors, that are going to be mandatorily evacuated tomorrow, and for us locals, who are going to be ordered out after that, please be careful! Make sure that you let relatives know where you are and what your plan is.
Getting out may not be a problem, getting back in might. Please be patient. I know that everyone will want to fly back down here after the storm, but please, please, please be careful and only come back in once they clear the areas. It won’t do any good to wait in line for a day before they let everyone back in. If you want to know a little bit more about hurricanes, and what Irma is looking like right now, here are a few items from our amazing National Hurricane Center and NOAA about hurricanes, and what Irma is looking like.
Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds
74-95 mph 64-82 kt 119-153 km/h
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
96-110 mph 83-95 kt 154-177 km/h
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
111-129 mph 96-112 kt 178-208 km/h
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
130-156 mph 113-136 kt 209-251 km/h
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
157 mph or higher 137 kt or higher 252 km/h or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.