Irma imperils Florida’s west coast

September 10, 2017
Map of Irma's predicted path

Hurricane Irma’s latest subtle, but significant, shift means western cities in Florida such as Tampa, St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, Sarasota, and Bradenton could soon bear the brunt of the storm. As this piece is posted the U.S. national Hurricane Center said top winds were 130 mph, this after Irma ravaged the northern part of Cuba, loosing—although temporarily—some of its punch. It’s expected to recharge over the Straits of Florida before coming ashore on the mainland U.S. Saturday evening or Sunday morning.

Officials warn, however, that the peril isn’t over for the more populous east coast of Florida, where Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Jacksonville are located.

Massive flight cancellations and airport closures are the rule right now throughout the state. Major airport-by-major airport here’s a rundown:

  • The last flight out of Miami International was at 9:50 Eastern Time U.S. on Friday September 8. Delta plans to be in the air to and from MIA Monday, September 11;
  • Southwest says “all flights to and from Fort Lauderdale…and West Palm Beach” are canceled at least through September 11;
  • Further north on Florida’s east coast, Jacksonville International closes down Saturday September, 9 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time U.S.;
  • All flights to remote Key West ceased Thursday night September 7. Delta says, conditions permitting, it could resume service as early as Sunday September 10;
  • In the center of the state lies bustling Orlando International, destination for a slew of leisure travelers. The airport says all flights will stop at 5 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday the 9th;
  • Down Interstate Highway 4 from Orlando lies Tampa, another prime ‘O&D’ (origin and destination) airport. Positioned, at least for the moment, in the crosshairs of Irma is Tampa International. Flights stop at 8 p.m. Saturday the 9th. Because of the storm’s recent shift to the west officials aren’t sure when the airport will reopen for business.

Given her current track and speed The National Hurricane Center projects Irma could reach landlocked Atlanta by early Tuesday morning September 12. At that stage it’s possible she could be packing winds gusting to a none-too-gentle 75 mph.

That could wreak havoc with Delta’s operations out of its 1,000-flight-a-day megahub, the busiest commercial airport on the planet.

At one point during the flurry of activity to evacuate flyers from Florida Delta deployed a trio of Boeing 747s on rare domestic runs, part of the 8,000 extra seat airlift the airline conducted.

For those in search of a snippet of sunshine in all this weather woe, there’s this: San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Luis Munoz Marin International rebounded smartly from the recent encounter with Irma. The airport is already up and running again.