Irma: The Latest
150 Rescued From Floodwater in west Orange County
Update 5:07 p.m.
The residents of one Orange County neighborhood face an especially long recovery from Irma.
Nearly 150 had to be rescued from floodwater.
Some 550 homes are affected in Orlo Vista, a residential community in west Orange County that is near three lakes.
Peterson Desravins says his home is surrounded by lake water on three sides.
“Where I was sitting at I didn’t notice the water. When I put my feet down I noticed the water. Then it’s like, OK, where is the water coming from. And I looked, and that’s when you notice, Oh, wow, the lake is in the front of the house.”
He fled to a nearby condo but not before the water in his home reached at least two feet deep.
Firefighters and National Guard members rescued the residents. They carried some of them on their backs through chest-deep water.
Irma Moves Out Leaving Dangerous Road Conditions
Florida Highway Patrol says they’re seeing too many people out “sightseeing” and not obeying the curfew.
FHP says trees are down and there’s standing water from the exit ramps at 528 to 520. Those ramps have been closed in both directions. Sergeant Kim Montes says there are numerous “wash outs” along I-4—where parts of the road washed away
“They’re on the shoulder, but we have troopers and DOT personnel out there trying to fix it especially I-4 in the Longwood area so basically the roadway is actually gone there but it’s on the shoulder.”
Montes says she’s pulled over about 30 vehicles. She pulled over some people for violating the curfew and others for not stopping at intersections with traffic lights out. Intersections with no lights should be treated as a four-way stop.
In Volusia County, officials are lifting a mandatory curfew, but County Sheriff Mike Chitwood is urging residents to use common sense.
There will be night-time curfew, however, since most of the county is without power “That is going to create a public hazard come dark.,” said Chitwod. “We are going to institute, until further notice, a nighttime curfew from 10 p.m to 6 a.m. county wide. The purpose of that is public safety.”
Florida Power and Light is working to restore power. Officials urge residents to call 1-800-4-OUTAGE or FPL.com to report downed power lines or outages.
Tornado Hits Brevard County
A tornado hit southern Brevard County, demolishing and damaging mobile homes. Lt. Mike Bandish of the Palm Bay police said the tornado hit at around 11:15 am Sunday. A couple of the mobile homes on Indian River Drive were demolished and 19 of them were damaged.
“Nobody was hurt, there was a 90-year-old man in one of the houses that was partially damaged,” said Bandish. “And he at first refused to evacuate and we talked him out and helped him evacuate.”
Bandish says the roof was pulled off of a home on Worth Court.
Brevard County Emergency Management says there were three other possible tornadoes in Palm Bay, Indialantic and Mims.
High winds took the roof off the five-story Castaway Cove apartment building and damaged the Bay Towers.
Brevard County’s emergency management center also feeling the effects from Irma. The parking lot is flooded and has been running on backup power since Sunday evening.
The mayor of Cocoa Beach says Hurricane Irma blew off part of the roof of the Cocoa Beach police department. Nobody was inside at the time and everyone is safe. It happened Sunday. Police are now working at the nearby Cocoa Beach Fire Department building.
Death in Orange County
Orange County has had its first death. A driver died on the 417 Sunday evening. A rescue vehicle with a patient inside drove through a puddle and hydroplaned into a guardrail. The patient made it to the hospital.
Orange County Mayor Teressa Jacobs is urging everyone to stay inside.
“Hunker down, get in your safe place, stay together as a family,” said Jacobs. “I’ve done this it can be a great bonding time. Stay together, stay safe.”
The Florida Highway Patrol says there have been ten crashes on central Florida roads.
Residnts Flock To Their Local Shelter
Thousands of residents poured into shelters across central Florida. In Brevard, 4,085 stayed Sunday night in shelters with 468 pets. Lake County registered 4,617, Osceola says 2,621 people are in shelters, Orange County says more than 4,200 people are in shelters along with more than 200 pets, and Seminole County counted 1,369 people in its shelters, Volusia has about 4,000 in its shelters.
Power Outages Across Florida
More than 3.5 million customers were without power across Florida late Sunday night.
Florida Power and Light says its restoration team put in place is the biggest the county’s ever seen. Spokesman Rob Gould says there are nearly 17,000 people working as a part of the restoration crew, a sizable difference compared to typical crews.
“And that number is about three times the size of our everyday restoration team and about 25 percent more than what we had in place when Hurricane Matthew struck us last year,” said Gould.
Pair of Manatees Stranded in Sarasota Bay
Two manatees were stranded after Hurricane Irma sucked water out of Sarasota Bay, in Florida’s Manatee County.
Several people posted photos Sunday of the mammals on Facebook, hoping rescue workers or wildlife officials would respond. Michael Sechler posted that the animals were far too massive to be lifted, so the rescuers gave them water.
Marcelo Clavijo posted that a group of people eventually loaded the manatees onto tarps and were able to drag them to deeper water.
The Associated Press and WLRN contributed to this update
What We Know: 3 p.m.
Irma is moving over Marco Island as a Category 3 storm. The storm is projected to hit Tampa early Monday morning.
While Central Florida is no longer in the protected path, the storm is nearly 400 miles wide. The strongest winds – up to 75 mph – will hit the Orlando area in the early morning hours Monday.
The storm is predicted to weaken as it moves North across the state, scraping along the west coast and be out of the state by Monday night.
Irma killed 22 people as it moved through the Caribbean. Three Florida automobile deaths are related to the storm.
The storm is responsible for more than two million power outages in the state — mostly in South Florida.
Central Florida is prone to tornadoes as the storm moves through.
Gov. Rick Scott is asking for donations, volunteers and prayers as Hurricane Irma moves in on Florida. Three people have died in Florida, two near Sarasota and one in Monroe County. All of the deaths were related to car accidents.
At least 1.4 million customers are without power across the state, most of them in south Florida.
Hurricane Irma stretches up to 400 miles wide, so winds and storm surge along the coast are major concerns.
“We’re going to get it on both coasts, more on the west than the east it looks like right now,” said Scott. “The storm surge, depending on how the winds are coming, can be before the storm and it can be after the storm.”
The Florida National Guard has thousands activated, and 30,000 guardsmen from neighboring states are on standby. Scott says 16 states have offered help and the National Guard is ready to assist by land, sea and air. Fish and Wildlife has hundreds of vessels on standby for after the storm. FEMA says there are tens of thousands of cots, blankets, tarps, meals and liters of water on standby to help residents after the storm.
Medical Needs During Irma
Scott is also asking for nurses to volunteer at special needs shelters. So far, some 2,000 nurses have volunteered so far, but Scott says Florida needs more.
OneBlood is using police escorts in some cases to get blood to hospitals during Hurricane Irma.
“We’re actually coordinating with the local police to get the blood to them,” said OneBlood’s Susan Forbes. “Our couriers are getting the blood in some cases to police to get that blood to a hospital during the storm.”
America’s Blood Centers and Blood Centers of America is also coordinating to arrange for blood shipments after the storm clears.
OneBlood is asking people outside of Irma’s path to donate now – in particular, platelets and O-negative blood.
With Irma just hours away, the High Patrol is urging drivers to stay off roads.
Counties across central Florida have imposed a 7 p.m. curfew to keep residents indoors. Volusia County has issued at 9 p.m. curfew.
More than 1,700 troopers are on the road helping residents with evacuations. Troopers are also escorting fuel trucks into central Florida for last-minute gassing up. GasBuddy shows some stations open with fuel across central Florida.
The state is working to keep gas stations open along evacuation routes, said the governor.
“I waived Florida’s motor fuel import tax for five days to help bring more fuel to our state for storm response and recovery,” said Scott. “This will make our efforts to bring in fuel from neighboring states after the storm easier.”
Florida utility officials say more than 1 million customers have lost power as Hurricane Irma hits the state.
Florida Power & Light Company said that nearly 1.1 million customers statewide were without power Sunday morning.
About 574,000 of those outages were in Miami-Dade County, while there were 360,000 in Broward and nearly 136,000 in Palm Beach County.
The massive storm made landfall in the Florida Keys, and its center was forecast to move up the state’s Gulf Coast. But the effects are being felt far from the center because of Irma’s size.
Shelter Information for Sunday
Shelters across the region are filling up.
There’s still room at Orange County shelters, where more than 2,200 in the 18 shelters open. Another pet-friendly shelter will open at 10 a.m. at Oakridge High School. Shelters are filling up, residents should check ocfl.net
The Islamic Society of Central Florida has opened up a shelter in Orlando.
Spokeswoman Dimarie Garcia says there’s still room at the shelter on Goldenrod and Colonial Drive. The shelter will remain open as long as the weather allows.
“Everyone is a little bit nervous,” said Garcia, “on edge, but we’re doing our best to accommodate to make everyone feel comfortable and safe at this point.”
The shelter is providing food, sleeping arrangement and activities for kids as they ride out the storm.
In Lake County there are 3,856 people and 470 animals hunkering down. Some Lake shelters are at capacity and residents should check the county’s webpage or Facebook page.
Lines are forming in Osceola County where six shelters are still open. They are St Cloud High School, Celebration High School, Harmony High School (pet Friendly) Horizon Middle School, Narcoossee Middle School. There are some 2,400 people sheltering in Osceola.
In Volusia County shelter rooms are available and transportation to shelters is available upon request.
Hospitals Closing Ahead of Irma
More hospitals are closing for Hurricane Irma and shutting down their emergency rooms.
In Volusia County, Florida Hospital Oceanside in Ormond Beach transferred 31 patients Saturday.
Florida Hospital New Smyrna in New Smyrna Beach transferred about 50 patients. Cape Canaveral Hospital in Merritt Island shut down earlier in the week.
In Osceola County, Osceola Regional Medical Center closed its freestanding emergency room in Hunter’s Creek.
Gov. Scott Urges Residents to Hunker Down, Remain Calm
Orange County emergency officials are urging people to stay indoors Sunday. John Mulhall with Orange County Office of Emergency Management says while this is a massive storm he fears people will become complacent.
“And plus with the size of the storm, we’re going to be seeing those tropical storm force winds for a longer duration,” he said. “By the last weather forecast I looked at, it’s entirely possible that we could see wind speeds in the higher levels for up to 24 hours.”
Gov. Rick Scott is urging residents to be patient after the storm. He says search and rescue crews are staged around the state, and food and water is ready to be distributed to impacted areas.
“We will do all we can to get this out quickly,” said Scott. “The Department of Transportation, National Guard and Fish and Wildlife will work as fast as they can to clear roads so we can get food and water to shelters in impacted areas. But disaster response takes time.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story
Shelters brim with central Floridians, out-of-town evacuees
Updated 9:30 p.m.
Throughout the region central Floridians are at shelters.
Lindsay Stroh is a Red Cross volunteer.
“It’s boring. It can be boring because you’re sitting around waiting out the storm. But it’s safe, and people make friends.”
She says people often pass the time by playing cards and sharing stories with children.
Shelters are filled with south Florida evacuees.
Fred Rucker is from North Miami.
“They told me where I was going to be there was going to be a bad storm surge, and I thought twice about it and then I looked at the news and I changed my mind about it.”
He packed his car with belongings like blankets and pillows.
He calls himself a “last-minute guy.”
More than a thousand are at Orange County shelters.
Hattie Glenn spends every big storm at a shelter.
“It’s kind of scary, but you feel more comfortable once you’re with other people. And you feel safe because you’re in a safe place.”
She is with her four grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Shiva Francis of Orlando is worried about falling trees on her home.
“I’m kind of a health food nut. I don’t know what kind of food they have here, but I brought my own. And blankets, and the same thing they tell you to bring, some clothes and a toothbrush and your important papers.”
Most important are photographs of her daughter, who just moved out.
As Irma Moves In, Local Leaders Issue Curfews
Updated 9:16 p.m.
Meteorologists say heavy rain squalls spawning tornadoes are hitting South Florida part of Hurricane Irma’s leading edge.
The National Hurricane Center says a hurricane hunter airplane found Irma’s winds dropped from 125 mph to 120 mph, but that’s likely to soon increase again now that the center of the storm is over bathtub-warm water.
Hurricane force winds extend 70 miles out from the 30-milewide storm eye.
Marathon International Airport recently reported a sustained wind of 48 mph (77 kilometers per hour) and a gust to 67 mph (108 kilometers per hour).
In an effort to ensure safety county leaders in the following areas are issuing curfews.
ORANGE: Sunday, September 10 at 7 p.m. through Monday, September 11 at 6 p.m. This curfew will not apply to emergency responders, employees at hospital and health care facilities and critical staff for businesses that provide essential commodities and services.
SEMINOLE: Seminole County has issued a curfew beginning Sun, 9/10 at 7pm through 6pm Monday, 9/11
VOLUSIA: A countywide curfew will begin at 9 p.m. Sunday and is expected to be lifted at 12 p.m. Monday. Officials plan to have bridges at 12 p.m. Sunday because their threshold is sustained winds of 39 mph.
Cape Canaveral Hospital shuts down, patients evacuated
Cape Canaveral Hospital in Merritt Island has been evacuated.
Matthew Gerrell with Health First said 84 patients were transferred to other Health First Hospitals in Brevard or discharged home.after Matthew, they learned the Viera hospital gets busiest during a storm.
“So what we’ve done with the transferring of patients, we put value of moving patients to Palm Bay Hospital over Viera to keep those beds open, and we are already starting to see an influx of patients at Viera Hospital,” Gerrell said.
Cape Canaveral hospital’s emergency room is also shut down. Those transferred include four patients in the intensive care unit, and six mothers with new babies.
Seminole County Braces For Evacuations
Updated Friday 2pm
Emergency managers are concerned about serious winds from Hurricane Irma.
Irma is expected to hit Central Florida Sunday.
Seminole County Emergency Manager Alan Harris says he’s prepared for a much stronger storm than Hurricane Charley which hit Central Florida in 2004.
“Much stronger than that. We’re doing everything we can to prepare to receive evacuees. We’ll be calling for evacuations tomorrow,” said Harris.
“In the inland counties, we call for evacuations of mobile homes, manufactured homes, individuals with special needs that have oxygen or electricity to run medical devices, or in low lying areas, those flood prone, flood zone areas.”
Irma Closes In On South Florida
Updated Friday 10:20 a.m.
Hundreds of thousands of South Floridians in the path of Major Hurricane Irma have less than 24 hours to make a decision. A decision to find higher ground, a sturdier structure, or hit the highway. Doing nothing is also a decision, but potentially a life-threatening one.
The winds of Irma are strong enough to leave homes and businesses “uninhabitable for weeks”, so says the National Weather Service in Miami. The storm surge will be high enough in some spots to move miles inland. The rain will fall at a rate too fast for drainage systems and waterways to contain. And further inland, tornadoes could spin up very quickly, exacerbating the structural damage and threat to life for anyone not in a safe place.
Former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told us during a Facebook Live last night that “This is about as bad as it gets. This storm is bringing everything.” He believes if we wait for “certainty”, it will be too late.
The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network says the time to finish preparations and evacuations is closing:
- Key West, Miami and Fort Lauderdale – sunset tonight
- Naples, Ft. Myers, West Palm and Ft. Pierce – noon Saturday
- Sarasota, Bradenton, Melbourne – sunset Saturday
- Tampa, Orlando, Daytona Beach – 6 am Sunday
- Ocala, Gainesville, Jacksonville, St. Augustine – noon Sunday
Warnings Issued For Florida Penisula
Hurricane warnings have been issued for South Florida as thousands of people evacuate.
More than a half-million people have been ordered to leave the region ahead of Hurricane Irma.
The National Hurricane Center on Thursday night issued hurricane warnings for the Keys and an area of the peninsula including metro Miami and Lake Okeechobee. Storm surge warnings cover both coasts along the state’s tip.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered all public schools, colleges and universities to close Friday through Monday.
The governor told residents not to become complacent because the storm could have “major and life-threatening impacts from coast to coast.”
Brevard Area Hospital Plans Evacuation
Cape Canaveral Hospital in Merritt Island will begin evacuating patients Friday.
The hospital says the majority of patients will be transferred Friday. Cape Canaveral Hospital has 150 beds on Merritt Island.
Cape Canaveral says the hospital will be evaluated for damage after the storm, and will be able to take patients again once it’s cleared for safety.
During Hurricane Matthew, Cape Canaveral Hospital was closed for a few days after the storm, and the National Disaster Medical System brought a field hospital to Brevard.
Construction Being Cleared Off Florida Roads
Florida Department of Transportation is taking measures to keep roads safe and running, making sure that all lanes are available in major roadways for people to evacuate safely.
With evacuations on Florida’s Space Coast, FLDOT has suspended work operations in all active construction zones statewide that would impact lanes used by motorists for evacuations.
That includes construction on Interstate 4.
“At my direction all tolls have been waived across Florida roadways. This should help families evacuate quickly and safely,” said Gov. Rick Scott.
The Florida Highway Patrol will have extra troopers, road rangers and wreckers on Florida’s major roadways, which are expected to see a surge of vehicles traveling north.
Orlando Hotels Filling Up Ahead of Irma
Hotels are opening their doors to Florida residents seeking refuge from Hurricane Irma. Visit Orlando says hotel rooms are nearly completely booked ahead of the storm.
George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, said some hotels are offering discounted rates.
“We have a seen however a great deal of flexibility by many of them not only the rates circumstances my vary general some have proposed some special rate associated with the event many of them have made their policies more flexible,” he said.
Governor Urges Gas Stations To Remain Open
Updated Thursday 1:12 p.m. — Associated Press
Gov. Rick Scott is urging all gas stations in Florida to stay open as long as possible to accommodate people who are trying to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma.
The governor said during a Thursday news conference that the state will send in police escorts to get gas station employees out safely if necessary before the storm arrives.
He says authorities are already escorting fuel tankers to get them through traffic and to gas stations as quickly as possible.
Scott says all of the state’s ports are still operating, bringing in fuel and supplies.
He urged residents to take only as much gas as they need to make sure there is enough for everyone who needs it.
Scott maintains that the state is doing everything it can to deal with fuel shortages and traffic jams so people can evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma.
Scott on Thursday acknowledged that the current situation is “frustrating” for Floridians, but he said the state is working with federal authorities and other states to move as much gas into the state.
This includes having the Florida Highway Patrol escort fuel trucks.
Beth Frady, a spokeswoman for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, said that during the night troopers helped escort trucks from two Florida ports to stations in Marion and Martin counties.
Troopers were also escorting trucks from Georgia to stations in Perry, which is located in north central Florida.
Brevard Announces Evacuation Orders
Brevard County officials announced mandatory evacuations starting at 3:00 p.m. Friday for Evacuation Zone A, which includes the barrier islands, Merritt Island and some mainland low-lying areas along the Indian River Lagoon. Officials warn those who live in mobile or manufactured homes, or homes in other flood-prone areas, whether on the mainland or barrier islands, should evacuate.
“We will take people to shelters if they can get to us in time and if we can get to them and we know that it’s needed,” said Don Walker, Brevard County emergency management spokesman.
Special needs shelters will open slightly earlier, at noon tomorrow, to take in residents who require extra health attention. But pre-registration is required. That can be done online or by calling 211.
Walker is encouraging people who do not evacuate the county to find a safe place to stay until at least early Monday morning. ““Whether it’s a friend’s house, a neighbor’s house, a family member’s house. If you don’t feel safe in your structure, it’s best to find someone who has a more modern type home that is built more to hurricane standards.”
Shelters, including pet-friendly locations, will open 3:00 p.m. Friday.
Volusia County Shelters And Sandbags
Updated Thursday at 4:00pm
Volusia County will open shelters on Saturday starting at 10am. The county is urging those in RV’s, mobile homes and manufactured homes in low-lying areas to evacuate.
The county has five locations where it is handing out sand bags ahead of the storm. Ten sandbags per vehicle will be handed out, an ID is required.The county has five locations where it is handing out sand bags ahead of the storm. Ten sandbags per vehicle will be handed out, an ID is required.
Residents in unincorporated parts of the county can pick up sandbags from 8 – 6 pm Friday and Saturday at the following locations:
• Oak Hill Fire Station, 213 N. U.S. 1, Oak Hill
• Volusia County Road and Bridge, 200 N. State Road 415, Osteen
• Pierson Fire Station, 132 N. Fountain Drive, Pierson
• Volusia County Fairgrounds, 3150 E. State Road 44, DeLand
• Volusia County Correctional Facility, 1354 Indian Lake Road, Daytona
Mandatory Evacuations Ordered In Some South Florida Areas
Updated Thursday 9:34 a.m. — Associated Press
Residents in parts of the Miami metro area are under mandatory orders to leave their homes as Hurricane Irma barrels toward South Florida with potentially catastrophic winds.
Mayors in Miami-Dade and Broward counties issued mandatory evacuation orders starting Thursday morning for barrier islands and low-lying mainland areas in the metro area of 6 million, where forecasters predict the hurricane with winds of 180 mph could strike by early Sunday.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott strongly urges people to evacuate if asked to do so by local officials. The governor also says he expects the state’s gas stations to have fuel Thursday, after talking with fuel retailers a day earlier.
The Florida Highway Patrol says troopers are monitoring the high volume of traffic heading north on Florida’s Turnpike as people evacuate South Florida.
In a news release, the highway patrol said extra troopers, road rangers and wreckers will be on the roadways to help drivers whose vehicles have become disabled.
The agency says disabled vehicles left on the shoulders of the highways will be towed staring Thursday morning to make it easier for emergency workers who are trying to reach crash victims.
Turnpike officials are also using cameras along the road to monitor conditions.
Anyone needed help can call *FHP to get assistance.
Services In Place For The Elderly And Special Needs
Support services are available across central Florida as Hurricane Irma approaches for the elderly and people with special needs.
Special needs shelters will be open to keep safe people who require extra resources and health attention. Volunteers and health officials will be working with the Florida Division of Emergency Management to deploy cots, wheelchairs, medication, oxygen and other medical supplies to these shelters.
To get transportation to and placement there, people must be signed up for a special needs registry in their respective counties.
In Orange County, officials say they’ll wait a couple more days before opening special needs and general population shelters.
“The earliest we would probably be opening shelters—given the direction and the path of the storm at this time—would probably be Saturday, but, of course, we do want our citizens to be prepared if they do need to shelter,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs
Special needs shelters are not for people who need ventilators, hospital beds or around the clock care. Those residents are asked to make arrangements with a doctor of caregiver.
Residents are strongly encouraged to dial 311 for more information if they do not have access to county websites.
Immigrant Groups Urge Shelters To Not Inquire Immigration Status
Immigrant rights groups are urging the government not to inquire about anyone’s immigration status at shelters that have opened in advance of Hurricane Irma.
The Florida Immigrant Coalition urged Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday to issue a statement saying the state welcomes people into shelters without checking IDs. Advocacy groups say immigrants are fearful after a Central Florida sheriff posted a Twitter message saying that officers will be checking IDs to keep sex offenders away from families.
The coalition said in a statement that this “is not a moment to incite fear in the hearts of our communities.”
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Florida chapter also weighed in, saying Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd “should be working to prepare his community, not burnishing his Joe Arpaio-style ‘tough cop’ credentials with a series of irresponsible tweets.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said officials there won’t be asking for identification.
Orange County Prepping For Influx Of Evacuees
Updated Wednesday 4:06 — Abe Aboraya
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings says central Florida should be prepared for a big influx of evacuees from Hurricane Irma.
Demings says shelters could open as early as Saturday in Orange County. He says officers will not be checking everyone for warrants, but you could be arrested if it comes to the attention of law enforcement.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd today tweeted that they will be checking IDs at shelters and will arrest those with a warrant.
Demings is encouraging residents to seek shelter. He said the law enforcement’s job is to keep the peace at shelters.
“However, in that process, if it becomes known to us that a person has a warrant, or in some cases we’re familiar with an individual, then we have to do our job,” Demings said. “But we will not stand there and every person that checks into a shelter go down and check that person’s name.”
Demings said there are specific shelters set up for sex offenders that will not have children.
Florida Governor Rick Scott estimates 25,000 people have already fled Irma.
Irma Impact Expect This Weekend, Army Corps Preps Waterways
Updated Wednesday 4:01 p.m. — Brendan Byrne & Associated Press
Central Florida could feel the impact of Hurricane Irma as early this weekend. “The earliest, reasonable arrival time for tropical storm force winds, which would be 40 mph or greater, would be Saturday evening for the Orlando metro area,” said Scott Kelly, Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Melbourne.
Kelly warns residents to not focus on the exact forecast track. “Tropical storm and hurricane force winds will extend far from the center of circulation.”
If Hurricane Irma churns northward over the Florida peninsula, the water in Lake Okeechobee could impact flooding downstream.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking precautions by drawing down water levels ahead of the storm, and they’ll be watching closely once it passes. Engineers are inspecting the Herbert Hoover Dike, and will inspect again once the water levels approach 17 feet. The lake level is currently less than 14 feet.
The South Florida Water Management District also has begun lowering water levels in canals, trying to move as much water as possible through flood control structures in preparation for the storm.