Even Florida Towns That Might Not Be Hit By Irma Are Battening Down The Hatches

by Tara Merrigan
Tom Pennington/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On Thursday, the Category 5 Hurricane Irma besieged islands in the Caribbean and continued to plow toward South Florida. But will Hurricane Irma hit St. Petersburg? Meteorological predictions can change before Irma strikes Florida, which is expected to happen this weekend, but it seems likely that St. Petersburg, which is on Florida's western coast, will be spared the brunt of the storm.

According to the Washington Post, Irma could be the first major hurricane (Category 3 or stronger) to strike Florida in a decade. "This could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago," said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The last Category 3+ hurricane to make landfall in Florida was Wilma in 2005.

Earlier this week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in preparation of Irma, which currently has sustained winds of 185 mph. Various local officials have ordered evacuations. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, for example, has ordered that about 650,000 people leave their homes and seek shelter.

"This is not a storm you can sit and wait through," the governor said on Thursday.

Right now, it looks likely that Irma will hit South Florida. “It has become more likely that Irma will make landfall in southern Florida as a dangerous major hurricane, and bring life-threatening storm surge and wind impacts to much of the state,” the Hurricane Center said on Thursday, according to the Washington Post.

It also looks likely that Irma, when it heads north through the state of Florida, will do so through the middle of the state, rather than affecting the western city of St. Petersburg. Nonetheless, city officials declared a state of emergency on Thursday. The proclamation all said that gas prices should not be gouged, so as not to prevent those attempting to evacuate.

Gov. Scott expressed a similar sentiment. "We know fuel is important and absolutely devoting every state resource to addressing this,” Scott said. “While we are making progress, you will see lines and outages."

Irma is expected to downgrade to a Category 4 storm by the time it hits Miami. Nonetheless, it will still be powerful. After striking Florida, the storm is projected to make its way up the East Coast. The states of Georgia and South Carolina have declared a state of emergency in preparation for the coming storm's potential damage.