Irma’s Effects Felt Statewide
After a week of watch Irma steadily plod toward Florida, she moved through the state over the last 24 hours. Each hurricane that affects the state is different in its impact and in the lasting message it leaves. With Irma, part of the lasting memory will be how a single storm can impact the entire state at one time.
In most cases, we think of a hurricane as heading toward or affecting “the panhandle,” or “south Florida,” or “the Keys.” Irma was different. Irma threatened the entire state at one time, leading Governor Scott to cancel school statewide and causing the closure of government offices throughout the state.
We see the “cone” of hurricane forecasts every time a hurricane appears to be heading our way. With Irma, I heard an explanation of hurricane forecasts that made a lot of sense in the context of Irma– the meteorologist explained that the average difference between a four-day projection of a hurricane’s location and its actual location four days later is 175 miles. Florida is less than 175 miles wide. This means we shouldn’t be surprised when a storm is projected to hit the east coast but four days later it actually makes landfall on the west coast. This is well within the range.
Irma highlighted how narrow our peninsula is in another way too– the storm was so wide (400 miles at some points) that it easily covered with width of the state. As the storm moved across the Keys and made landfall on the west coast, its winds and the water they pushed also pounded the east coast. This continued as Irma moved past Naples, Fort Myers, Tampa and Gainesville, and meanwhile we also saw the impact from Miami to Jacksonville.
Irma made her presence known and taught us some new lessons. Many will say that she was not as bad as she could have been, and that may be true in the aggregate. However, the real impacts of a storm are on families and businesses throughout the case. In many of those cases, Irma indeed was as bad as it could have been. After a week of watching and waiting, the rebuilding process can begin.