Irma batters Florida with catastrophic storm surge, wind and rain
By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist
September 11, 2017, 9:42:18 AM EDT
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Deadly Irma is unleashing destructive winds, flooding rain and inundating seas across northern Florida after battering southern portions of the Sunshine State.
"Unfortunately, there is no way the United States is going to avoid another catastrophic weather event," Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather said.
"There will be massive damage in Florida. [It will be] the worst single hurricane to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992," Myers said.
Cities facing dangerous conditions through Monday include Tallahassee and Jacksonville.
After the center of Irma tracked along the northern coast of Cuba Saturday morning, Irma briefly became a Category 3 hurricane. Early Sunday morning, it again became a Category 4 storm.
Hurricane Irma officially made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane at Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys at 9:10 a.m. EDT Sunday.
Irma made another landfall as a Category 3 hurricane over Marco Island, Florida at 3:35 p.m. EDT Sunday. Since then it has been steadily weakening, becoming a tropical storm on Monday morning over northern Florida.
Irma may return over water for a brief time and make another landfall southeast of Tallahassee, Florida, Monday morning.
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"Impacts within the continued path of Irma include life-threatening wind, storm surge and flooding rainfall hazards," Kottlowski said.
As Irma travels northward, torrential rainfall and high winds will increase across northern portions of the peninsula into Monday.
The largest storm surge will occur across northeastern Florida, including Jacksonville.
Strong westerly winds in the wake of Irma have been battering the coast as Irma pulls away, leading to a sloshing of water back towards the state.
"It's a monster hurricane out there -- it's bringing along with it something to be feared," Myers said, referring to the "extremely angry ocean" that Irma has been churning for so long.
Irma had sustained 185-mph winds for 37 hours, the longest any cyclone in the world has maintained such intensity. Super Typhoon Haiyan previously set the record in 2013 when it maintained winds at that level for 24 hours.
"Rainfall across the peninsula will average 10 to 15 inches with locally higher amounts, which can lead to significant flooding issues," AccuWeather Meteorologist Alyson Hoegg said.
Poor drainage areas will be particularly susceptible to flooding from Irma's torrential rainfall.
Much of southwestern Florida has been buffeted by wind gusts of 100 to 140 mph, which have knocked down power lines and trees and caused significant to catastrophic damage to roofs and structures.
Power could be out for weeks in some communities.
Bands of rain will not only bring flooding issues but will also bring an increased risk for tornadoes.
Regardless, bands of rain will continue to bring catastrophic flooding issues and an increased risk of tornadoes.
"Already there have been reports of several tornadoes, and these twisters will form rapidly and die out rapidly to the east and north of Irma's track," Kottlowski said.
The citrus crop could be seriously damaged by the storm due to the long-duration of intense winds.
Ripple-effect travel delays will be felt across the country, in not only domestic but also international travel, according to Myers.
Irma's rain and wind will continue to expand across the Southeast on Monday, threatening flooding from Alabama to South Carolina.
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