Hurricane Irma is still days away from possibly making landfall in Florida, but Governor Rick Scott has already declared a State of Emergency to prepare for it. The hurricane, which comes on the heels of the devastating Hurricane Harvey that hit Texas late last month, is already a Category 4 as it reaches the northern Leeward Islands. The storm could reach Jacksonville and the rest of Florida by Saturday.
The potential track from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Irma reaching Puerto Rico by 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, then passes by the Dominican Republic and Haiti 24 hours later. Beyond that, the projection has it moving over Cuba on Friday and reaching South Florida by Saturday.
The NOAA reported in its latest bulletin at 11:00 p.m. AST that Hurricane Irma is a Category 4 Hurricane, with maximum sustained winds at 140 mph. It is moving west at 13 mph.
Considering the damage done by Hurricane Harvey to Texas after making landfall as a Category 4, Scott was quick to announce a State of Emergency for all 67 Florida counties, including First Coast counties Duval, Clay, Baker, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns.
“In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared. This state of emergency allows our emergency management officials to act swiftly in the best interest of Floridians without the burden of bureaucracy or red tape,” Scott said in a statement.
Although the most recent projection does not have the storm making a direct impact on Jacksonville and the First Coast, residents have been preparing for the storm. After all, last year’s Hurricane Matthew caused major damage in the area, particularly in St. Augustine. Matthew also taught residents that a storm doesn’t have to make landfall to make leave a significant impact.
“[I’m] paying very close attention to Irma. [I’m] just really concerned about our friends here in Jacksonville, and also concerned about what’s going to happen,” beachgoer Leland Roane told Action News Jax at Jacksonville Beach.
Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue lifeguard Max Ervanian added, “We’re not going to necessarily get 45 lifeguards here on the beach for a system like that only because there’s only so many guards that we have available at the time of the year, but we definitely do keep our eye and staff accordingly, per the ocean conditions, beach population and available staffing.”
To plan ahead, Floridians are urged to visit FloridaDisaster.org/GetAPlan, which helps families and businesses plan for hurricane floods and other damage.
““In Florida, we know that the best way to protect our families in severe weather is to have a plan. I urge all Floridians to remain vigilant and stay alert to local weather and news and visit FLGetAPlan.com today as we all prepare for Hurricane Irma,” the governor said. “We will keep monitoring and issuing updates on Hurricane Irma as it approaches Florida.”