Hurricane Irma is now a Category 5 hurricane and is moving closer to the U.S. It is still several days from reaching the coast, with the latest projections showing it not passing Cuba until Sunday, but it is still important for residents of Daytona Beach and other Florida cities to get prepared. Considering the damage Hurricane Harvey did in Texas last month, Governor Rick Scott has already declared a State of Emergency for all 67 Florida counties, including Volusia and Flagler.
The latest public advisory from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, issued at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, notes that Irma is now a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds at 175 mph. It is moving east at 14 mph and is about 270 miles east of Antigua. A hurricane warning was issued for several islands throughout the Caribbean, including Antigua, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico is also under a hurricane watch.
Although the latest path for the storm doesn’t have it reaching parts of South Florida until Sunday morning, Scott declared a State of Emergency for Florida on Monday. This allow local governments to begin preparing immediately, giving them almost a week head’s start to ensure resources are readily available for residents.
“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,” Scott said. “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.”
Flagler County officials told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that they are also getting ready for the worst. Volusia and Flagler counties face a 10 to 20 percent chance of experiencing at least tropical storm force winds on Friday.
“It’s so far out,” Steve Garten, public safety emergency manager for Flagler County, told the News-Journal on Monday. “But we have to plan for the worst.”
However, since the storm is so far out, it’s not clear yet if Daytona and the surrounding communities will face a heavy impact. “We’re just going to have to wait a couple of days and see where this thing goes and do everything we can to get ready,” Jim Judge, Volusia County’s emergency management director, told the News-Journal.
Daytona Beach was hit hard by last year’s Hurricane Matthew, even though the storm never made landfall in Florida. The Orlando Sentinel reported weeks after that storm hit in October 2016 that it caused an estimated $67 million in damages to hotels and motels in Volusia County.