Large, catastrophic Major Hurricane Irma is on a collision course with the Sunshine State; devastation there is imminent and people should rush their storm preparations to completion and wrap up evacuations as soon as possible.
There is a near certain chance of a direct hit to Florida, although the devil is in the details with landfall specifics as it relates to strength and track. There will be a zone of catastrophic destruction near Irma’s landfall, destroying most structures in its path. The location of that impact area will be under 20 miles wide and any wobbles east or west of the storm could bring that zone closer to or over to Miami on the east coast, closer to or over Naples on the west coast, or right over the Everglades in the middle. While there will be a zone of complete destruction, there will be a huge area of severe damage over most of the Florida Peninsula, especially along and south a line stretching from Sarasota to Orlando to Titusville. Depending on the storm track after landfall, there could be devastation, perhaps catastrophic, further up the Florida east coast and into the coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolinas. There’s also questions about Irma’s intensity: the waters south of Florida and north of Cuba are incredibly hot, perfect for adding fuel to an already large, deadly storm. It is possible that Irma will re-intensify before its next landfall on Florida, perhaps as a strong Category 4 or 5 hurricane.
Everyone in south Florida should assume and prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Those under evacuation orders or voluntary requests should flee to safety immediately; time is running out to get out of harm’s way. Tropical storm force winds will begin spreading over the state from south to north beginning this evening. By tomorrow, it will be tough if not impossible to get around on the Peninsula, especially south of Tampa/Orlando/Daytona Beach.
Irma is also not the only threat in this region; forecast models have suggested that Jose or a future storm, which would be named Lee, could also impact the East Coast about 5-7 days later. Be aware of that possibility, especially if you’re in an area without communication or power for an extended period of time. Forecast paths for Jose and Lee won’t be better known until Irma’s final track is etched in stone.