Damage from Irma in St. Martin.
Hurricane Irma is bringing confusion, hysteria and a dire threat of devastation of epic proportions to Florida.
The superstorm is already much larger than 1992’s Hurricane Andrew and meteorologists predict it will not miss Miami, The Washington Post reported. In fact, the storm is bigger than the entire state.
“Irma is likely to make landfall in Florida as a dangerous major hurricane, and will bring life-threatening wind impacts to much of the state regardless of the exact track of the center,” the National Hurricane Center warned Friday.
If it makes landfall Sunday as a Category 4, the Hurricane Center added, the damage will be significant – especially to the power grid and particularly around the eyewall. Category 4 storms have winds between 130-156 mph.
“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,” the Hurricane Center said. “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.”
Irma is already blamed for one injury in Florida; police on Friday shot a man with a knife on the tarmac at Miami International Airport. The panicked individual was trying to reach a flight at the crowded airport. The suspect was arrested and taken to a hospital, the Associated Press reported.
Biggest Mass Evacuation in U.S. History
Highways and airports were jammed Friday morning as panicked residents and travelers rushed to get out of South Florida.
The exodus might turn into one of the biggest mass evacuations in U.S. history, said CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen. Around 6 million people live in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, which are right in Irma’s path.
Freeways were so crowded that the Highway Patrol had to escort tankers to filling stations. American Airlines and United waived change fees to speed up boarding at airports to help travelers get out. Air traffic controllers also increased airspace to enable more flights to leave.
“We cannot save you when the storm starts,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) warned the public. “So, if you are in an evacuation zone and you need help, you need to tell us now.”
Devastation of ‘Epic Proportions’
Floridians had good reason to flee, as Irma already has caused loss of life and damage on a near-apocalyptic scale in the Caribbean, National Public Radio (NPR) reported.
Nearly every building on the island of Barbuda has been destroyed and 1,400 people left homeless, AP reported. Around 95 percent of the houses in the French colony of St. Martin were damaged and 60 percent of the homes made uninhabitable.
Severe damage was also reported in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Irma missed Puerto Rico, but more than one million people on that island were without electricity on Friday and airports were closed.
“It will be difficult to estimate how long the power outage will last,” Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló said.
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