Hurricane Irma leaving wake of destruction

Published 11:04 am Friday, September 8, 2017

Hurricane Irma has certainly had everybody’s attention on the Eastern Seaboard since it gained strength as a Category 5 storm a few days ago. Late Wednesday and early Thursday, it hit the Caribbean islands of Barbuda and Antigua, causing massive destruction to its infrastructure, homes and business. Other islands affected include Puerto Rico, St. Martin and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands.

As of 5 p.m. on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center reported the following on its website:

“At 5 p.m. the distinct eye of Hurricane Irma was located near latitude 20.9 North, longitude 71.1 West. Irma is moving toward the west-northwest near 16 mph (26 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue for the next couple of days with some decrease in forward speed. On the forecast track, the eye of Irma should continue to move between Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos Islands this evening. The core of the hurricane will then move between the north coast of Cuba and the Bahamas during the next day or two.

“Maximum sustained winds remain near 175 mph (280 km/h) with higher gusts.  Irma is a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days.

“Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles (110 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles (295 km).”

Jeff Orrock, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Wakefield said, “Irma’s going to turn, but it’ll be slower than what’s forecast earlier. That’s the trend. We’ll have to keep watch. Saturday will be a telling time.”

For this region, residents are advised to keep a watch on storm reports.

“In general, the biggest thing is for people to stay aware, hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” said James Foster, fellow meteorologist at the NWS, Wakefield. “Make sure you have a good supply of canned foods and plenty of water,” he said, and that also goes for any medications you need.

“If you have pets, have food for them and anything they might need,” he continued.

For gasoline needs, fill up early is his advice and, if feasible and safe, store some as well.

“Listen to local officials if you’re near water,” said Foster. “Be prepared for any evacuation orders.”

As if Irma weren’t enough, there’s also Hurricane Jose, which is still east of the Caribbean, and tentatively forecast to move toward Bermuda by Tuesday afternoon.

The Tidewater News will be following and reporting on Irma and Jose’s progress.