Irma moving closer to U.S. mainland

Jimmy LaRoue
Contact Reporterjlarouejr@vagazette.com

Williamsburg area officials are calling for residents to plan ahead for any impacts related to Hurricane Irma. Check back here throughout the day for updates.

Update 5 p.m.

AAA Tidewater says anyone with travel plans should pay attention to Hurricane Irma’s track and check with airlines and cruise lines for any potential cancellations. It notes that Key West International Airport has already closed.

AAA Tidewater cautions that there could be temporary gas shortages due to southeast U.S. residents buying gas to evacuate.

“This increase in buying could worsen the already tight, Harvey-related supply issues along the Colonial Pipeline from Alabama to Virginia. Some stations in Florida are reporting outages with many others confirming long lines,” said AAA Tidewater in a news release. “It is important to note that similar to Harvey, post-Irma there would not be a gasoline shortage in the U.S., but instead there could be an issue of getting gasoline supplies to impacted regions. Once power is restored and roads open, gasoline deliveries will resume.”

The National Weather Service says Irma is continuing on its west-northwest track at 16 mph, with a hurricane warning in effect in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Bahamas, with a hurricane watch in effect for the Florida Keys.

The storm should remain as a Category 5, according to the National Weather Service and is still expected to fluctuate in intensity over the next two days, but should still stay either a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. Hurricane force winds extend out for 60 miles from the center of the storm, with tropical storm force winds extending out 185 miles.

Update 2:45 p.m.

Hurricane Irma is traveling west-northwest at 16 mph and still has sustained Category 5 winds of 175 mph as of 2 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. The storm is expected to pass north of Hispaniola today, will be near the Turks and Caicos islands tonight.

Any potential Mid-Atlantic impacts are still unclear, the National Weather Service says.

The AP is reporting that four people have been confirmed dead and about 50 injured on the island of St. Martin, and two more deaths were reported on the British island of Anguilla and independent Barbuda.

The AP quotes Brian McNoldly, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, as saying “this could be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago,” referring to Hurricane Harvey.

Ready.gov has a comprehensive list of items for a basic emergency kit. Items should be stored in airtight plastic bags and the entire kit should go into one or two easy-to-carry containers, such as a duffel bag or plastic bins.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Water: One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food: at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Download the Recommended Supplies List (PDF)

For more information on hurricane preparations, go to Ready.gov.

Don’t forget about pets when it comes to preparing for a hurricane. Here’s some tips on how to care for them.

Update 12 p.m.

Here are some resources for anyone looking for information about preparing for Irma, or any hurricane now that we’re in the peak of hurricane season.

Information:

Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide (Virginia Department of Transportation)

Know Your Zone (Virginia Department of Emergency Management)

Hurricane Safety Tips and Resources (National Weather Service)

JCC Alerts (James City County)

Also, Virginia Task Force 2’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, which arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico late Tuesday and early Wednesday, said that its members are now performing reconnaissance on Puerto Rico to confirm routes to critical areas on the island, according to a post on its Facebook page.

Hurricane Irma has passed north of the island.

Several firefighters from the Peninsula are part of the team, including two from the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety — Capt. Reggie Rivera and Lt. Rob Moore.

Logistic team members of Task Force 2 are at the team’s cache preparing equipment for missions and are awaiting orders to head out on the island, or any other island needed, according to the Facebook post.

“All team members and the canines are well and in good spirits,” the Facebook post said.

Update: 11:30 a.m.

Irma is still moving west-northwest and is just north of the Dominican Republic as it heads toward Florida, according to National Weather Service-Wakefield meteorologist Mike Dutter.

He said the storm could reach south Florida by Saturday afternoon and into the evening, and then the forecast calls for Irma to take a sharp turn to the north and come on shore somewhere in the Georgia, South Carolina, or extreme southern North Carolina around Wilmington.

Dutter said the latest forecast has Irma just west of Charlotte, North Carolina by 8 a.m. Tuesday as a tropical storm.

“Even though it’s pretty far away from the area, which is good for our area, we could still see some impacts in the form of moderate to heavy rain,” Dutter said.

The most likely scenario for the Williamsburg region, he said, is wind and rain Monday into Monday night or even into Tuesday.

“I think it’s important for us … to keep a watchful eye,” Dutter said.

Update: 10 a.m.

Hurricane Irma is still a Category 5 storm packing sustained winds of around 180 mph, but its impact on the Williamsburg region is unclear.

Irma is expected to make landfall in Florida sometime Sunday, with any expected impacts in the Williamsburg region not expected until at least the middle of next week, according to the National Weather Service.

The forecast for the Williamsburg region calls for partly to mostly sunny skies and high temperatures in the mid 70s and lows in the mid 50s to about 60 from Thursday through Monday.

By Monday evening, the National Weather Service is calling for a chance of showers, with the chance of precipitation between 40 and 50 percent. At that point, Irma is currently forecast to make landfall near the Georgia/South Carolina border.

In addition to Irma, there are two additional hurricanes, in the Atlantic, Katie, near the eastern coast of Mexico, and Jose, which is east of Irma.

The governors for the states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have declared states of emergency.

LaRoue can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342, by email at jlarouejr@vagazette.com or on Twitter @jlaroue.

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