Though Hurricane Irma has begun howling over parts of Florida, it is not the wind, but the storm surge that is going to be deadly and devastating.
After flattening Cuba, Hurricane Irma began to pound and howl over southern Florida on Saturday and may make landfall on Sunday (local time). But it is the storm surge that is going to be more deadly and devastating after the storm passes over.
Also Read: Florida in Deep Fear as Hurricane Irma Knocks At its Doors
The Florida Keys faced deadly winds clocking 125 miles an hour. The storm surge now threatens to drown the whole islands. Miami faces another threat from high rise cranes that are ubiquitous over the city skyline. These cranes could topple and either kill or destroy buildings.
America witnessed one of the largest evacuations in its history as the storm approached.
Meanwhile, Florida Governor Rick Scott said the storm surge could reach 15 feet in places. “Fifteen feet is devastating and will cover your house. Do not think the storm is over when the wind slows down. The storm surge will rush in and it could kill you.”
“The threat of significant storm surge flooding along the entire west coast of Florida has increased. The storm surge could be as high as to 6 to 12 feet. This will cover your house,” he told the media.
A storm surge is a slow but steady rise in the water level caused by a major storm’s wind as it gets closer to shoreline. As the storm nears the coast, it increases the water level by pushing waves deep inland. Winds from the storm then would push more water toward the shore. But that water doesn’t just come in and go back out.
Over a short but dangerous period when each wave starts coming in, water will slowly begin to accumulate, raising the average water level onshore — similar to a tide — until it swallows up a beach or rises over a pier, causing flooding. All of this can be made worse by the waves that ride in on top of the shore, however big or small they may be.
The National Hurricane Center says storm surge is “often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane.” The surging waters can destroy structures on land. Storm surge can tear apart buildings and the resulting debris is added to the deadly churning water.
The Hurricane Center said parts of Florida’s southwest coast could see “catastrophic” storm surge, 10 to 15 feet high. It’s one of the reasons officials have told residents that moving even just a few miles inland could be beneficial for them.
“You will not survive all this storm surge. This is a life-threatening situation,” Governor Scott said.
Hurricane Irma had killed at least 25 people by the time it made landfall in Cuba Friday night as a Category 5, trampling directly through the island’s northern coast. The hurricane was downgraded to Category 3 as it moved away from Cuba on Saturday, but was expected to strengthen before its eye meets land in Florida on Sunday.
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