Irma continues its assault on Southeast
Hurricane Irma pushed north from Florida early Monday morning leaving behind miles of downed trees and power lines with Georgia and Alabama next in her dangerous sites.
Roughly 7 million Floridians remained without power, yet fears of widespread death and destruction proved, thankfully, unfounded. Virtually every U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, from Key West National Wildlife Refuge to Piedmont NWR, was safe and accounted for, according to mid-morning field reports.
But Kevin Scasny, meteorologist for the Service, cautioned that high winds, coastal storm surges and heavy downpours still threaten North Florida, Georgia and eastern Alabama.
“The main story now is the winds,” he said. “Tropical storm winds extend a whopping 80 miles from the center of the storm into South Carolina.”
Scasny expects the tropical storm, downgraded early Monday from a Category 1 hurricane, to hit the Valdosta, Georgia, region by 2 p.m. Monday and exit Georgia via Columbus approximately six hours later. Birmingham can expect gusts of 50 mph Tuesday about 8 a.m.
Metro Atlanta will likely see steady winds of 35 mph or higher this afternoon with gusts reaching 60 mph or greater, according to the National Weather Service.
“Prepare for life-threatening rainfall flooding having possible extensive impacts across north and central Georgia,” NWS reported.
Florida refuges throughout Irma’s path listed downed tree and power lines, but little extensive damage to refuge offices or residences. Key West was the exception.
“It looks pretty severe down there in the Keys,” said Dan Clark, who manages the refuge. “Refuge and personal residences were in the bull’s eye.”
Virtually every refuge reported downed trees and power lines. Three Special Operations Response Teams, or SORT, deployed across Florida, from east to west, assessing damage to refuge properties and employees’ homes. An Incident Command team is expected to set up shop Tuesday to coordinate recovery efforts across the region.
Irma, though, continues to menace the Southeast.
“I expect a lot of winds and tree damage over the next 36 hours,” Scasny said.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose meanders off the Florida coast and could loop towards the East Coast in the next week.
Jeff Fleming, External Affairs
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