Much of south Florida is experiencing sunny skies, and the reality that Hurricane Irma will bring winds of more than 155 mph, punishing rains, and massive storm surges in less than 48 hours might be hard to imagine. If you're wondering: Will Hurricane Irma hit West Palm Beach? All of Palm Beach County is at Level 1 Full Activation, which means that all lead and support agencies are notified, and the Emergency Operations Center is staffed by Division of Emergency Management personnel, according to the Palm Beach County Public Safety office's website.
Additionally, the Palm Beach Post reported that Palm Beach County, where West Palm Beach is located, is expected to experience hurricane-force winds before dawn Sunday. While residents of West Palm Beach are not currently being ordered to evacuate, the public safety office urged residents to seek shelter from the category 5 storm, and is establishing an 8 a.m. curfew Saturday for all residents. This means that all emergency preparedness efforts should be completed before then, including making sure you have enough food, water, batteries, medication, etc. for several days. Residents are urged to keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles, the Post reported.
"Based on our history, we feel it’s important for everybody’s safety to not be on the road,” West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio told the newspaper Friday. “There’s going to be a hurricane here. If people are wanting to drive through that, they do so at their own risk.”
Palm Beach County To Enforce Curfew
Irma is expected to make landfall as a strong category 5 hurricane, which means winds can top 155 mph. The Post reported that even emergency crews won't venture out once winds exceed 38 mph. For those outside of West Palm Beach, but still in Palm Beach County, a countywide curfew begins at 3 p.m. Saturday, according to Palm Beach County spokesman John Jamason.
“A person must have a legitimate purpose for being out past curfew hours. In addition to the curfew, the State of Emergency also prohibits the sale and/or distribution of alcohol as well as the sale and/or display of firearms," Jamason told the Post.
A specific threat in West Palm Beach is flying projectiles due to the number of active construction sites, the Post noted. Additionally, a category 5 hurricane is strong enough to cause catastrophic damage, according to the National Hurricane Center.
"A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse," the center reported. "Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months."
This means that debris from construction sites is likely to be lifted by the wind, and could seriously injure anyone in its path.
Irma Is Much More Dangerous Than Andrew
While Hurricane Andrew previously devastated the same region when it made landfall as a category 5 hurricane 25 years ago, officials say Irma is actually more dangerous due to its size.
"Andrew made landfall as a category 5 hurricane with maximum winds around 165 mph," The Weather Channel reported. "However, the areal extent of hurricane force winds were confined to about 70 miles from the center of circulation. Irma’s expected to make landfall with winds [in excess of] 145 mph, but its areal extent of hurricane force winds will be over twice as large as Andrew’s. The larger size of the hurricane coupled with its high intensity implies that Irma has larger integrated kinetic energy than Andrew, which is a predictor of damage potential than maximum intensity alone."
Make sure your disaster kit is stocked, and within reach. If you're in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County public safety can be reached at 1-561-355-2384, or visit the Palm Beach County public safety page for updates.