In the eye of Irma

Last night a faithful Power Line reader answered Steve’s call for reports on dealing with Hurricane Irma. This report was current as of 8:30 p.m. (Eastern) yesterday evening:

You asked for news from Southern Florida readers. I’m on the southern coast of Cape Coral, Florida. Cape Coral is on the landward side of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, and is just to the west of Fort Myers. More saliently, it is also almost directly on the current predicted path of Hurricane Irma. The consensus trend line has Irma making landfall at Naples, then slashing straight up the western side of the state.

Irma has weakened slightly, with winds dropping from 185 MPH to 155 MPH, which is still borderline Category 5 strength. It is expected to strengthen somewhat when it hits the Florida Strait, so may well make landfall as a Cat 5. Irma’s winds are not likely to top those of the three previous Cat 5 storms to make landfall in the US (Camille, Andrew and the Labor Day hurricane of 1935), but it is reportedly significantly larger than all of them, and if it hugs the Gulf Coast may maintain considerable strength for several days. So Irma could net out as the most powerful storm on record to strike the US.

No fools, they, the Keys (Monroe County) are almost completely evacuated by now. Collier County (Naples) has ordered evacuation of everything west and south (i.e., seaward) of Rt. 41, the Tamiami Trail. Lee County (Fort Myers, Cape Coral) has ordered mandatory evacuation of the coastal islands (notably Sanibel, Captiva and Fort Myers Beach) and most low-lying areas west and south of Fort Myers. They are only a few feet above the water and the storm surge is expected to top ten feet. The good news is that Miami will likely escape the worst of the storm; previous track predictions had had Irma heading dead on towards that most populated part of the state. Still, I expect that by midnight Saturday there will not be a single atheist south of Tampa.

The preparation by the Florida authorities has been exemplary, from all I can tell, and the evacuations have proceeded smoothly. They have not yet gone to contra-flow traffic routing, reportedly to allow emergency supplies to flow to the endangered areas, but the roads in Southwest Florida remain clear (though there are reportedly significant traffic jams on all major arteries from Tampa/St. Pete north). The shelters have opened early, and there are long lines but no apparent problems. [My particular building was constructed in 2006 to post-Andrew codes, and is rated to withstand a Cat 5 hurricane, so most of the residents have elected to stay put.] FEMA and the State National Guard have prepositioned emergency supplies and equipment. While the stores have been methodically stripped of everything hurricane-related, there has been no panic. The atmosphere is somber but calm and friendly, with neighbors repeatedly offering help to the more vulnerable folks.

Please mention to your readers that the most important thing to stockpile is potable water. It is not too late to fill all bathtubs and empty fluid containers. If the city water supplies become contaminated it could take weeks to restore drinkability.