Preparing for Irma by the Bay
Now begins the live experience of a Cat 4 hurricane.
^ 7:00 AM - The first winds are there. The gray clouds too, and the brightness starts to drop. For now, the frigates and seagulls are still flying and the jackdaws are hovering in the shelter of the wind behind our 20-storey building. Waves are beginning to form on the bay. During the night, the trajectory of the hurricane deviated towards the west. It would appear that the Gulf Coast would be the most affected. Yesterday evening bars organized hurricane partys; I started a painting. Everyone is worried about us: the family of course, but also old acquaintances who reconnect for the occasion.
^ Saturday, September 9, 2017 ^
^ 11:00 AM - Irma has just moved into category 4 but its path is still right through Miami. Jose goes up to category 3. The morning was devoted to the cooking of all the frozen goods and a part of the fresh products. All our portable devices are charging. All available containers are filled with water, we put on freezer the maximum number of bottles to have ice in the event of a power failure. The office manager of the condo assured us the cut will be inevitable. And probably long given the aging state of the North Miami power grid. The weather is still beautiful, it is very hot with a little breeze and some boats still circulate on the bay. The security helicopters make rounds over the buildings. Air traffic stops this evening. This is also the time to send emails to family and loved ones. Now we stand for the first winds.
^ 7:00 AM - That's it, we're ready. For the first pass: nothing on the balcony, furniture distant from the windows even if they are anti-hurricane and a small corner with mattresses at the back of the apartment in a bathroom without windows. Also flashlights, candles, water and food, blankets and a deck of cards. For the post-storm: canned food and lots of water and beer (!). The bath is full of water to flush the toilet, all fragile or important things are stored in the dressing room. The real expectation begins in an atmosphere mixed with anguish and excitement. We will not go as far as making a Hurricane Party like some people, but we approach the threat with relative serenity. We talk a lot about what could happen to us worse: we are privileged and our lives are probably not in danger. Then we think of the cars that could be flooded, of the windows that might not hold the shock, of the building that has already lived some hurricanes since the 1970s ... We also talk about the moment after: will the water be drinkable, the electricity cut off, the telecommunications nonexistent, the roads impassable? For how long ?
^ Friday, September 8, 2017 ^
^ 2:00 PM - Yesterday the mayor declared officially the start of the evacuation plan. As expected, a second wave of departures is blocking the roads northbound. And the gas pumps are empty on the way.
South Florida has just gone through Hurricane Watch and the expected path of the storm has not really moved since yesterday. Jose is now in category 2. While the center of the hurricane is now passing through Haiti and the Dominican Republic, international aid is mobilizing in the West Indies. The control center is located in Guadeloupe, but there is no doubt that the Haitians, who are barely recovering from the passage of Matthew, will need more help than the others. I received worried calls from my family living in France. Indeed, the French news give to this hurricane very frightening proportions. The storm literally obliterated some areas of the islands and left a huge scar, human losses and everything to rebuild. Everybody here hopes that Irma will loss power before hitting the US coasts. Nothing is less sure. As for Florida Governor: "Regardless of which coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate [...] this is not a storm you can sit and wait through". Again, it is still very difficult to realize the threat under such a beautiful Miami sky today.
^ Thursday, September 7, 2017 ^
^ 5:00 PM - According to NOAA map, Miami is still not under Hurricane watch. It is true that the alerts, official or not, spread very quickly in Florida. This is the first time that people are preparing so early for a hurricane, but the Floridians still have in mind the images of Harvey's devastation in Texas and feel even more threatened. While the warning is discontinued for St Martin and Anguilla, social medias start broadcasting dramatic videos of the aftermath, along with violent footages showing the islands hammered by the merciless winds.
Since last night, it’s nearly impossible to book a flight online, regardless of the destination. The flight company’s websites are overloaded and prices are artificially rising. On the ground, it is more than ever a show in front of grocery stores. The lines are forming long before opening hour, mostly consisting of people looking for water. But inside the store, water shelves are desperately empty so everyone is heading to soda and beer aisles. I’ve heard people saying all of this is a conspiracy fomented by the major distribution groups like Walmart or Publix, that these powerful people know better about the real path of the hurricane which will not hit Florida, that it is a big scam made to make you spend all your pennies… Really? Come on, the reality of Nature forces could be a lot more painful than the disappointment of learning that one cannot trust Western capitalism.
^ 1:00 PM - The storm is slowing down. Speed is decreasing but not strength, giving to Miami Mayor a little more time to prepare. The evacuation order is now in process.
^ 9:00 AM – The “potentially catastrophic cat 5 hurricane Irma passes over St-Martin” says NOAA in its last public advisory. I have seen videos on Internet news and the pictures looks like a time lapse. The winds are strong, very strong, devastating. Jose is still behind when a third tropical storm takes a name in the Gulf: Katia. Weird. Maybe a good example of “extreme weather event” instead of “physical and undeniable proof of climate change”.
^ Wednesday, September 6, 2017 ^
^ 5:00 PM - Miami Dade County announced that all public schools and universities will be closed on Thursday and Friday for preparedness. At the same time, a name was given to the next tropical storm already forming in the Atlantic and pushing Irma’s tail: Jose. The surf forecast plans on 25 to 40 feet swell (7 to 12 meters) on Sunday by 9:00AM with winds reaching 117mph (188km/h). No doubt that the crazy surfers in Haulover and South Beach will soak the fins like they did last year during the passage of Hurricane Matthew.
^ 2:00 PM - It’s the day after Labor Day and it seems like people won’t go to work anyway. It’s Survival Shopping Day. Endless lines are forming inside every grocery and stores along Biscayne Boulevard. By the way, the highway has become almost impracticable and Waze announces an average speed of 4 mph (6km/h). The most impressive gatherings take place at Costco and Home Depot where parking lots are filled with hundreds of cars. Needless to say that the most basic products are already missing: no more bottled water, batteries, duct tape or strand boards on the alleys. Gas stations are also assaulted by farsighted drivers, even though a road evacuation may be difficult, as the planned trajectory of Irma runs all the way through the center of Florida.
^ 8:00 AM - This Morning Hurricane Irma turned into category 5 tropical storm offshore Leeward Islands and is on a collision course with South Florida. If I magnify the forecast line on National Hurricane Center Website, it looks like the possible trajectory goes directly through my southbound window. A little scary. Especially when NOAA says it’s already “the strongest hurricane ever recorded outside the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico”. For now, the weather is SoFlo-like: temperature 89°F(32°C), wind speed 11mph (18km/h), humidity 73% with chances of showers by the end of the day. Hard to realize a monster is coming.
^ Tuesday, September 5, 2017 ^
For this Labor Day, NOAA offers a nice satellite view of Irma. OK, no doubt this is a badass hurricane.
^ Monday, September 4, 2017 ^
This is the first alert for Hurricane Irma, a growing category 3 storm in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. But no one really cares for the moment, most of the media are still covering the damage caused by hurricane Harvey in Southeast Texas a few days ago.