DISCUSSION: As Hurricane Irma continues its torrid pace to potentially impact Florida, many people are leaving or in the current stages of planning to leave by plane or by car before the hurricane is forecasted to reach the coast. Locals are not the only ones preparing to leave, however, tourists from central Florida destinations such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida and Kennedy Space Center are currently trying to re-adjust plans or cancel them outright.
In response to the upcoming hurricane threat, Governor Rick Scott of Florida (R) has suspended all of the tolls to help the evacuations as well as ordered all schools to be closed. Governor Scott has also in advance declared a state of emergency as among the brunt of Irma’s landfall is projected to hit in the metropolis of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach. This area is forecasted to receive damage costs in the millions or even hitting billions of dollars. In addition to the roads being affected from evacuation, two of South Florida’s airports, Miami International and Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International will be hit hard as both are major hubs and focus cities for American Airlines as well as JetBlue, Spirit Airways, and Southwest Airlines. Both airports will likely close as the first band hits as planes there cannot operate in crosswinds greater than 35 mph as well as the tower being forced to close at 55 mph winds. Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport announced on Thursday that it would be closed starting Friday night. Many airlines have cancelled flights to both airports in preparation for the closures.
Some other major areas such as the Orlando, Daytona Beach, and Jacksonville will be hit as well. In these areas, many tourists are rearranging or cancelling their plans as well as trying to evacuate as the area will be hit by the storm. Among the affected regions is the major airport of Orlando International which feeds in most of the tourists to central Florida. The airport announced on Thursday it would close on Saturday at 5 pm in preparation for the storm. The NWS is currently forecasting the winds at the airport to pick up Sunday afternoon with windspeeds near 35 mph at 4 pm which would make it impossible for planes to take off at that time. Meanwhile, Universal Studios and Walt Disney World have not made announcements of whether the parks will close but have posted links about what would happen if people chose to reschedule their trips due to the hurricanes such as cancellation policies. Also, Kennedy Space Center (KSC) had already issued a hurricane condition for employees which has prompted evacuation. NASA has also started to shore up some of the major facilities such as launch facilities, rockets, and the Vehicular Assembly Building.
In addition to tourists and locals, many schools and universities will be closed due to the storm including the University of Miami, Embry-Riddle Aeronautic University, University of Central Florida as well as smaller community colleges. Dr. Shawn Milrad, professor of Meteorology at Embry-Riddle, described the Embry-Riddle campus as a ghost town as all the entire campus was closed and the dorms are currently being used for shelters. Milrad also said, “The students at Embry-Riddle especially the meteorology ones are worried especially those from South Florida.” Milrad also included that the meteorology department will have a weather station to track the data of Irma since the station happened to survive Hurricane Matthew the past year. In addition to classes be cancelled, several college football teams across the state are affected. Among the teams affected include the Miami Hurricanes, Florida Gators, and South Florida Bulls all had their games for the weekend cancelled, meanwhile, the Florida State Seminoles and the Central Florida Knights moved their home games to earlier times and dates respectively in anticipation of the storm.
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©2017 Meteorologist JP Kalb