Although Hurricane Irma is still days away from nearing the Florida coast, authorities are already urging residents of the Sunshine State to take precautions and prepare for the worst. Forecasts now increasingly suggest that it will indeed make landfall on the U.S. mainland, though precisely where is still not entirely clear. But Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in all 67 of Florida's counties, and now some people are wondering, will Hurricane Irma hit Gainesville in the coming week?
It's not hard to see why so many people are worried. Irma is currently a Category 5 hurricane, meaning it carries wind speeds of more than 156 miles per hour ― that's even more forceful than Hurricane Harvey, which topped-out at Category 4. It could end up being the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which is currently considered the worst hurricane in Florida's history. In fact, Scott specifically referenced Andrew in his warnings to the public on Wednesday, saying that Irma could be worse.
As far as Gainesville is concerned, the hurricane threat is just as real as it is anywhere in Florida. The most recent forecasts from the National Hurricane Center, though not 100 percent definitive, suggest that Irma will reach Florida late this weekend, and make it's way northwards through the state. The mayor of Gainesville has already signed a declaration of emergency.
While there's no way to predict how much force Irma will maintain, exactly what path it'll take, or where it'll make landfall, Gainesville's position in north-central Florida leaves it open to the same fundamental concerns as the city of Orlando, which is already preparing and bracing for the worst.
Regional authorities in central Florida reportedly fear that the region's infrastructure cannot handle the kind of rainfall that Harvey brought to Houston ― at one point dropping more than 40 inches of water in a 24-hour period ― and as such, there's a lot of concern being felt over just how powerful Irma has become.
In short, if you live in Gainesville, you should make sure to keep an eye on the hurricane forecasts over the next couple of days, and prepare to leave the area and seek safety if conditions demand it. Obviously, it's too early to say for a certainty what might be required, but it's better to work out a plan well in advance, just in case you need it.