Residents of southern Florida are preparing for Hurricane Irma, and the news that keeps coming in on the storm just seems to keep getting worse and worse. The latest weather advisory statement out of Florida contains some warnings that are even more chilling in light of all the damage Irma has already done in the Caribbean. Forecasters expect Irma to leave behind complete devastation after it finally moves out of Florida next week.

Hurricane Irma
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NWS describes Hurricane Irma as “extremely dangerous”

The National Weather Service in Miami issued a local weather statement just before noon that describes Hurricane Irma as “extremely dangers” and warns residents of southern Florida that the storm is set to make landfall there this weekend. The agency issued storm surge and hurricane watches for much of Miami-Dade County and parts of several other counties.

The statement said that the hurricane is located about 760 miles east-southeast of Miami, and the agency measures the storm’s intensity at 175 miles per hour. The National Weather Service is tracking Hurricane Irma as it moves west-northwest across the Bahamas today and tomorrow before sweeping into southern Florida over the weekend and even into early next week.

Forecasters expect Irma to be a Category 4 or 5 hurricane when it makes landfall in Southern Florida.

Aftermath of Hurricane Irma could last months

The agency says the “main window of concern” for the storm’s impacts in southern Florida is early Saturday morning through Monday, which shows just how long Irma is expected to linger over the state. It also warns that the biggest impacts from Hurricane Irma are expected to be destructive winds and life-threatening storm surge. Other possible impacts include flooding, tornados, extreme beach erosion and surf and life-threatening rip currents.

The National Weather Service expects structural damage to sturdy buildings,” including “complete roof and wall failures.” The agency also warns that some parts of southern Florida could be “uninhabitable for weeks or months.” Forecasters expect many roads to become impassable due to debris, widespread power and communications outages, and significant flooding.

They’re urging those who are under evacuation orders to leave as soon as possible. Those who need to check whether their area is under evacuation orders should dial 311 if they’re in Miami-Dade and Broward counties or 211 in other parts of southern Florida.

Irma’s destruction could be far costlier than Hurricane Katrina’s

Most adults in the U.S. remember the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina because of how many people were left homeless and how long Louisiana and the Gulf Coast were dealing with the aftermath. As a result, Katrina is being used as a sort of measuring stick by many who are trading to gauge the severity of Irma, and by JPMorgan’s estimates, Hurricane Irma could end up being far more destructive than Katrina was.

In a note on Thursday, analyst Sarah E. DeWitt explained that Irma appears to be turning out to be the worst-case scenario. She covers property casualty insurance for the firm, and she pegs the amount of insured losses at $100 billion to $150 billion or possibly even more. She warned that the insured losses could end up being two or three times the amount of insured losses that were recorded after Hurricane Katrina.

DeWitt spoke with JPMorgan’s in-house meteorologist, who said that the most likely track looks to be the worst-case scenario as the potential for a Category 4 or 5 landfall in the Miami is looking more and more likely.

Hurricane Irma
Image Source: JPMorgan

She added that Hurricane Irma could affect a wide area as it moves up the East Coast, possibly even maintaining the strength of a major hurricane through Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach. Irma could even maintain major hurricane strength as far north as Georgia, DeWitt warned.

Hurricane Irma destroyed 90% of Barbuda

Floridians who were previously thinking about riding out Hurricane Irma might rethink their plan after hearing about what the storm did to the Caribbean islands it ripped through on Wednesday. The storm destroyed 90% of the structures and vehicles on the island of Barbuda, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has told reporters.

Irma rolled through Barbuda early Wednesday morning, making landfall as a Category 5 hurricane. At least one person on the island was killed, although that death toll could rise in the coming days as officials complete a full assessment of the destruction. The island is home to approximately 1,600 people.

The death toll in all of the Caribbean is now up to at least 13, and more than 1 million people are without power and almost 50,000 are without water in Puerto Rico, according to The Weather Channel.