Caribbean Islands - I've been tracking this storm all day. Between CNN and Fox News it almost sounds as if our world is about to come to an end. At the moment, everyone is evacuating. The freeways are jam packed with cars for miles. Now some residents are questioning if they should evacuate or stay and bear the storm. Well it's hurricane season for those of you who are not aware, but this is completely natural. Not saying that this is something that you can completely disregard, or has been blown out of content, but we go through this each year. Certain years, yes it gets pretty big and wild, but here we go again. Irma looks like its building up and may be a Category 4 or 5 when it hits Florida. It's already has been raising terror upon its current path thus far. The size of this thing is enormous. It's probably the size of Texas at the moment as it is ripping through the Caribbean islands. Reports of fatalities and widespread damage in northern Caribbean islands are beginning to emerge Wednesday night after Hurricane Irma blasted through, packing devastating winds and rain.
About 1,800 people live on Barbuda that currently have no water or phone service for residents. Officials have confirmed one fatality, an infant. Reports were stated that Barbuda suffered damages "upwards of 90%." In St. Barts and St. Martin reports of at least two people died and two others were seriously injured. The islands are French overseas collectivities. Irma destroyed buildings, tore roofs off of homes and left northern Caribbean islands without power or communications.
Antigua, Barbuda, St. Martin/St. Maarten and St. Barts felt the fury of the Category 5 storm, one of the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic. Some of the strongest buildings on the island of 75,000 people has been destroyed or has become weaker structures on St. Martin. "In terms of material damage, the four strongest buildings on the island of St. Martin have been destroyed, which means that the oldest buildings have undoubtedly been totally or partially destroyed.
While it is still too soon to narrow down specifically on the exact path of Irma's center and eyewall, there is an increasing chance of a major hurricane strike on at least part of South Florida, including the Florida Keys, this weekend. The vast majority of the forecast guidance indicates Irma will begin to turn more to the north sometime this weekend.
The strength and expansiveness of the Bermuda-Azores high over the Atlantic Ocean and the timing, depth and location of a southward dip in the jet stream near the eastern U.S. will dictate where and when that northward turn occurs. According to the latest National Hurricane Center forecast, the center of Irma may be very close to South Florida by Sunday morning, with conditions going downhill already during the day, Saturday and worsening for southwest Florida on Sunday.
Most at risk of the worst impacts near the center are the north coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Turks and Caicos, southeast Bahamas, and areas near the north coast of Cuba. The storm surge will arrive Thursday in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, with some areas in this archipelago receiving an inundation of 15 to 20 feet above normal tide levels. This surge will be accompanied by destructive waves.
It is possible that Irma will make landfall somewhere on the northern Cuba coast sometime late Friday or on Saturday as a major hurricane. Hurricane conditions will be possible along the coast and a few miles inland if Irma makes landfall or nears the coast.
Preparing for the Hurricane
It's not just about stocking up on water and batteries.
One of the worst things a person who lives along a coast can do is ignoring a hurricane and not prepare for the severe storm. The National Hurricane Center says that the two most efficient ways of staying safe during a hurricane are preparing in advance and then acting on those preparations.
Hurricanes are categorized by the Saffir-Simpson scale that bases their level of severity on sustained wind speeds. A Category 3 or higher is considered by the NHC to be a major storm because of its potential to cause deaths and destructive damage. Hurricane Irma is currently a Category 5 storm with 225 mph wind gusts. But there are ways to protect yourself, your home and your family from such powerful forces of nature. FEMA is nearly broke as Hurricane Irma steamrolls toward Florida. So please be prepared and not solely depend on FEMA.
An evacuation plan
If you live in an area near or below sea level, an evacuation plan is essential. During a storm — a swell of water that can reach upward of 20 feet for hundreds of miles of coastline — water can enter the home and block roads, making it difficult to get to dry land. You should know where your nearest evacuation center is — regardless of your home's elevation — and have a route mapped out should your local authorities issue an evacuation notice. Cell phones and other electronics should be charged and battery needs to be rationed.
It's a great idea to actually test the evacuation route in good weather. Waiting until the day of the hurricane will increase an already heightened state of anxiety.
Repair and Reinforce your Home
Hurricane Irma is size of Texas. Before a storm is on your doorstep, repairs to leaky roofs, loose shingles and siding and structural issues need to be addressed. Trim your trees and remove any branches that aren't fully attached. Anything outside that could blow away or cause damage if thrown around by strong winds should be brought inside. Ready.gov advises that storm drains and gutters be cleaned out so that water can be properly diverted away from the home.
Plywood should be bought and hammered into place over windows to protect against flying debris. In less-effected areas, duct tape or packaging tape can be used to create x-shapes across windows to prevent shattering.
Stay on Top of the news. Be Alert!
Many communities and most cities have emergency alert notifications that you can receive through text messages or emails. Ready.gov says to search the internet with the name of your town and the word "alerts" to learn how you can sign up.
Stock up on Supplies
People who may have to evacuate their homes during a storm should have a kit that includes enough food and water for three days per person, cash, medications, blankets and clothes. In-home emergency supplies like a first aid kit, a battery-powered radio, flashlights and extra batteries, a loud whistle and local maps should be collected along with the above evacuation items, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Set freezers and refrigerators to their coldest settings and open the doors sparingly to keep your food cold should you lose power. If you wait until the hurricane is here, you are going to be waiting in long lines and they could even b out of the stuff you need.
Generator Safety 101
If you live in an area where having a backup generator is possible, remember that it must be kept outside, away from windows and doors and protected from moisture. Generators can quickly become fire hazards and should never be wired to or plugged into a wall outlet inside a home.
Property owners and even renters sometimes don't realize that their regular home insurance does not cover them in cases of floods. Flood insurance is expensive, especially in areas near large bodies of water, but it can prove to be worth it in the aftermath of a hurricane.
Consider your Four-Legged Friends
Pets are often overlooked during natural disasters like hurricanes. If you end up in a situation where you will be unable to care for your animal in an emergency, consider your local animal shelter, family or friends to take in your pet. Never leave an animal behind in a home that might flood or tied up outside where they could be critically injured by the storm.
Make copies of Important Documentations
Birth certificates, insurance and proof of ownership documents, forms of identification, social security cards, medical coverage papers and any other paperwork essential to your life needs to be photocopied and placed in a waterproof bin. If a hurricane levels your house, you have to prove that it is your house.
Weather can change at a moment's notice. The weather reports have been wrong for years. Sometimes, when they warn of evacuations, it may be a good idea to just comply because you never know. But in this instance, residents in Irma's path like Florida and South Carolina are still reflecting from Harvey, so they're going to evacuate. Then again, if you look at the traffic reports, so is everyone else. We all saw the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, this one is suppose to be a lot bigger and worse.