Hurricane Irma is now a Category 5 and could be one of the biggest storms in recent history. Although Irma may not make a possible landfall in the U.S. until later this week or this weekend, many regions in Florida are already preparing. The storm currently has 185 mph winds and the chance of direct impacts from Irma is increasing in the Florida Keys and portions of the Florida peninsula. But as the National Hurricane Center has emphasized, “It is too soon to specify the timing and magnitude of the impacts.”
Here’s everything we know so far about the hurricane’s potential impact in West Palm Beach.
Governor Rick Scott has already declared a State of Emergency to prepare for the storm in Florida.
In a statement, Scott said:
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.”
Meanwhile, West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County residents are debating the merits of evacuating. Palm Beach Post reported that at this point, driving is likely the only option for evacuating, since most flights out of Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami are booked. In southern Georgia, hotel rooms are getting tough to find, so the further north that evacuees go, the better.
Meanwhile, West Palm Beach’s Emergency Operations Center will likely open Thursday and be in full activation mode by Friday, Palm Beach Post reported.
At the time of publication, evacuations had not been ordered in West Palm Beach or Palm Beach County, although mandatory evacuations were ordered for the Florida Keys in Monroe County. But Mayor Jeri Muoio told Palm Beach Post that if officials tell residents to evacuate, they should leave and not ignore the evacuation. If you aren’t sure which evacuation zone you’re in, you can visit here to find out.
The National Hurricane Center has indicated that the Leeward Islands will get hit with catastrophic winds tonight, and Irma may reach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Wednesday night, and then the Dominican Republic and Haiti 24 hours after that. It will then move over Cuba by Friday. Beyond that, it’s tough to predict where the storm will go, but South Florida — especially the Keys — are more and more likely to be in its path.
Florida is on high alert after the damage that was done when Hurricane Harvey, a category 4, made landfall in Texas. Irma is a Category 5.
Irma is currently moving west at 14 mph. Experts are urging caution about paying too much heed to the storm’s track and landfall, since it’s 120 miles across (nearly as wide as Florida itself) and many areas will feel the impact of the storm even if they aren’t directly hit by the center of the storm. Tropical storm force winds will extend out 160 miles.
As of 2 p.m., Irma was located near latitude 16.9 North, longitude 59.1 West, heading west at 14 mph. Irma’s strength may change as it moves forward, but experts say it will likely remain Category 5 or 4. Maximum sustained winds were 185 mph. The latest minimum central pressure was 926 mb.
The following watches and warnings were in effect:
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for…
- Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, and Nevis
Saba, St. Eustatius, and Sint Maarten
Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy
British Virgin Islands
U.S. Virgin Islands
Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for…
Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to the northern border with
Haiti from the northern border with the Dominican Republic to Le
Mole St. Nicholas
Turks and Caicos Islands
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for…
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for…
- Dominican Republic from south of Cabo Engao to Isla Saona
- Haiti from south of Le Mole St. Nicholas to Port-Au-Prince
Here’s the current long range forecast for West Palm Beach, according to the National Weather Service. This could change as the hurricane’s path becomes more predictable.
Wednesday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after noon. Partly sunny, with a high near 90. Heat index values as high as 102. Southeast wind 5 to 11 mph.Wednesday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly before 9pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 81. Southeast wind 5 to 7 mph.Thursday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 3pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 91. Heat index values as high as 105. Light east wind increasing to 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon.Thursday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms before 3am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 81. East wind around 11 mph.Friday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 9am. Partly sunny, with a high near 89. Breezy, with a northeast wind 11 to 18 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.Friday Night: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 82. Windy, with a northeast wind 21 to 24 mph, with gusts as high as 33 mph.Saturday: Tropical storm conditions possible. A chance of showers and thunderstorms, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 9am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 88. Chance of precipitation is 70%.Saturday Night: Hurricane conditions possible. Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a low around 82. Chance of precipitation is 70%.Sunday: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a high near 88. Windy. Chance of precipitation is 70%.Sunday Night: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a low around 79. Windy. Chance of precipitation is 70%.Monday: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a high near 89. Windy. Chance of precipitation is 70%.Monday Night: Showers and thunderstorms likely. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 79. Windy. Chance of precipitation is 70%.Tuesday: A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 90. Windy.
Floridians are asked to visit FloridaDisaster.org/GetAPlan to plan ahead for the storm.
If you want to sign up for local alerts from Palm Beach County, download the Palm Beach County’s PBCDart and the City’s Code Red apps. You can also follow the city of West Palm Beach at twitter at @westpalmbch, the police department at @WestPalmPD, and the website at wpg.org/storm.