Waiting for the Turn North

Did you know that the Associated Press has reported that 5.6 million people have been asked to evacuate Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma? To my knowledge, this is now the largest evacuation in U.S. history. The previous record was 3.7 million people who evacuated ahead of Hurricane Rita in 2005.

Irma made landfall in Cuba last night as a Category 5 hurricane, making it the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in Cuba since 1924. Irma has since weakened back down to a Category 4 hurricane due to half of the storm being over land, starving it from the warm waters of the Florida Strait. Irma should finally head more northwest today and turn towards Florida, which undoubtedly has been delayed. In fact, Irma is now at a longitude of 79.6W, very close to the longitude of Miami, so unless Irma takes one of the sharpest turns in hurricane history, a direct hit to Miami can almost certainly be ruled out. This has caused a drastic change in loss estimates from some of the scenarios over the last several days. However, with a shift in track to the west, this will now put the highest winds over Florida’s west coast and some of those major population centers.

The expected turn to the north should still occur, but as I talked about earlier in the week, the trend is your friend and the trend has been for the track to move west. This is actually bad for a couple of reasons. As mentioned, this would put the highest winds right along the west coast as Irma tracks north. It also puts Irma in the warm waters of the eastern Gulf of Mexico for a longer period of time, allowing it to gather strength and potentially be upgraded back to a Category 5 over the next 48 hours.

To give an idea of Irma’s size, I drew a circle around Irma to represent the size of the storm. I copied the same circle and moved it over Florida. Irma is a very large hurricane, so it is still possible that most of the state could see hurricane force winds as it tracks northward. However, given the westward shift in track, the strongest winds should now be well way from the populated tri-county Miami area of south Florida and the other east coast cities

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Steering flow still suggests a turn to the north, with the greatest weakness right up the west coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Last night’s ensemble runs showing the greatest likelihood of Irma’s center passing over major west coast cities of Florida. These ensembles also show that the probability of a Miami landfall is still just as likely as Irma completely missing the Florida Peninsula and making a landfall in the eastern panhandle.

 

Storm Surge

This shift westward also significantly increases the storm surge risk along Florida’s west coast, which in general, has a much higher storm surge risk anyway due to the shallower bathymetry along Florida’s west coast.

 

Detailed Wind Swath and Expected Damage

The latest BMS iVision wind swath showing the true extent of damaging wind. BMS clients can use this wind swath to help understand the wind impacts at the individual risk level.

 

Source: http://ioe-guikema.engin.umich.edu/Hurricane_Irma.html This is the current estimated power outage outlook.

Expected Rainfall

There is now a chance that Irma could stall out across the southeastern U.S. later next week. However, in the near term, 15 inches of rain is still expected to fall over much of the sunshine state as Irma tracks northward.

 

This Morning’s – 9 AM EDT  BMS Tropical Update Webinar on Irma

This morning BMS hosted another webinar. If you missed this, I provided an update of the items being discussed in this blog in more detail, and our President Steve Korducki and Executive Vice President Julie Serakos covered the CEO check list of things companies should be doing at this stage and the current state of the market with summary of insured losses.