Hurricane Irma has the potential of affecting every major city in Florida – USA TODAY
People in South Florida raided store shelves, buying up water and other supplies before the arrival of Hurricane Irma. Long lines formed at gas stations and people put up plywood to protect their homes and businesses. (Sep. 6)
MELBOURNE, Fla. Ã¢Â€Â” Hurricane Irma poses the most significant threat to Florida in memory Ã¢Â€Â” and “this is the kind of storm that you read about in the history books,” said Bryan Norcross, senior hurricane specialist at The Weather Channel.
“This has the possibility of running up the peninsula and affecting every major city in the state. It’s not certain that that’s what’s going to happen, but it certainly is a possibility,” Norcross said Wednesday.
“We don’t know what is going to happen exactly. But we know what the range of possibilities is Ã¢Â€Â” and this is a situation where the top of that range is extraordinarily extreme,” he said. “This is the kind of storm that I always pictured when I read the history books about the great Florida hurricanes of the past and imagined how they would impact the modern state.”
Norcross has worked for The Weather Channel since 2010. Tuesday, he left his Miami Beach apartment and flew to the network’s Atlanta studios for around-the-clock Irma coverage.
“When a storm is threatening like this, my day is pretty much 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., or maybe a little after. I start in the morning, where we have morning meteorology meetings, and I post extensively on Facebook. I stay up through the 11 o’clock advisory at night,” he said.
Norcross said his Facebook posts reached 4.5 million people during the past week Ã¢Â€Â” including 900,000 on Wednesday morning Ã¢Â€Â” as Irma continued to gain strength.
“The west coast of Florida Ã¢Â€Â” including the Ft. Myers/Cape Coral/Naples area and Tampa Bay Ã¢Â€Â” are spectacularly vulnerable to storm surge. Much more so than the east coast, which still has many threatened areas,” Norcross wrote during a lengthy Facebook post Wednesday morning. Ã¢Â€ÂœIf the storm looks like it could go up the west coast, evacuations are going to be required there, which will create an epic movement of people through the State of Florida.
“If this happens, and you are in an evacuated area, do not dawdle. Do not even think about dawdling. Immediate action will be required,” Norcross wrote.
Norcross, who worked as chief meteorologist at WTVJ-TV in Miami when Hurricane Andrew stormed ashore in August 1992, retold the experience in My Hurricane Andrew Story, a book released in May.
Some waited hours for sandbags in Viera for Hurricane Irma. Video by Lamaur Stancil, FLORIDA TODAY Posted Sept. 6, 2017
A quarter-century ago, Andrew inflicted unbelievable damage in South Florida that “you use a round of superlatives to describe,” Norcross said. But Andrew was a fairly small-sized hurricane that moved directly across the Sunshine State from east to west, he said.
Prior to Irma’s projected path, Norcross said Florida has not faced a similar threat from a big, powerful hurricane since Hurricane Donna in 1960.
That historic hurricane hit the Middle Keys as a Category 4 storm, then curved to the northeast and crossed the peninsula as a major hurricane. Donna exited Florida between Brevard County and Jacksonville.
“When I left my apartment in Miami Beach (Tuesday), I closed the shutters, took a look around and took some pictures and locked the door. And it was an odd feeling,” Norcross said.
“Because I’ve done this before with hurricanes, where I head off to television stations Ã¢Â€Â” or in this case headed to Atlanta to be on The Weather Channel Ã¢Â€Â” and left my home to fend for itself as well-protected as I could make it,” he said.
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