Hurricane Irma Winds Leave Millions Without Power; Next Come the Floods


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Irma is now a minimal hurricane heading north. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

Hurricane Irma knocked out power over most of south Florida, and officials are warning that it may not be restored in some places for weeks.

Residents will have to cope with no refrigeration or air conditioning as food spoils and heat indices reach triple digits.

The Evolution Of Irma

Irma developed in a perfect environment for intensification in the central Atlantic Ocean. The perfect symmetry of the storm was apparent in satellite photos, and as Irma hit the Caribbean Islands, the destruction was confined to the area around the center — the eye wall. This was the case as Irma went north of Porto Rico and Hispaniola, and made landfall in Cuba.

At this point, the storm was disrupted by interaction with land and vertical wind shear, and became asymmetrical; the area of hurricane force wind expanded even as the maximum wind subsided from category five, as Irma approached Cuba, to category one now.

With the center of the storm on the west coast, the powerful northeast quadrant of the storm covered most of south Florida and moved north. Conditions 100 miles from the center, all along the east coast, were just as bad as those near the eye.

Fetch And Duration Of Wind

The surprising amount of damage on the east coast was affected by the length of time and the consistent direction from which the wind blew — basically southeast for nearly a day along most of the east coast.

On the other side of the storm, the west side lost strength, and with the center moving ashore, the Tampa area was spared a major storm surge. On the west coast, the wind blew first from the east, which actually caused lower than normal water levels, followed by the diminished west winds which blew for a shorter time than winds on the east coast.

Irma’s Wind Winds Down, But Rain Will Still Cause Flooding

Irma’s last gasp will be to dump more than five inches of rain on most of Georgia and South Carolina. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

The 5 a.m. advisory from the National Weather Service has maximum winds in Irma at 75 miles per hour.

Irma will be downgraded to a tropical storm at the next advisory. But Irma will not be finished. Northern Florida and Georgia will still experience damage from the long-fetch, long-duration wind.

Then, Irma will dump heavy rain in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Though the rainfall totals expected will not impress southeast Texans, seven inches of rain in a short time can overwhelm the capacity of drainage systems, rivers and streams to handle the runoff.

Flooding is likely in the path of the dying Hurricane Irma.

Is Hurricane Jose Next?

The atmospheric environment in the Atlantic Ocean is still conducive to the formation and development of hurricanes.

Hurricane Jose scraped the northern Leeward Islands and is headed out into the open ocean. It is now forecast to stall and make a small loop, then head back to the west. It is too early to say whether Jose will impact any land areas.

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