Second-strongest hurricane recorded in Atlantic threatens Florida

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 9/6/2017

As one region of the country is rebounding from what will likely be the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, another portion of the nation is preparing for one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record. Hurricane Irma is expected to reach near the southern tip of Florida on Sunday, Sept. 10.

On Monday, Sept. 4, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties in the Sunshine State. The following day, President Trump approved Scott’s pre-landfall emergency request. A pre-landfall emergency declaration allows the federal government to provide assistance and resources while freeing up funding sources for emergency protective measures such as shoring up beach dunes, building emergency berms and planning for potential evacuations.

The following commercial vehicle regulations have been suspended or waived for those providing direct emergency assistance:

  • Suspend enforcement of registration requirements pursuant to sections 316.545(4) and 320.0715 of Florida statutes for commercial vehicles providing emergency services or supplies;
  • Waive hours of service requirements;
  • Suspend enforcement of the licensing and registration requirements under the International Fuel Tax agreement and the International Registration Plan for motor carriers or drivers operating commercial motor vehicles that are properly registered in other jurisdictions;
  • Waive fees for duplicate or replacement vessel registration certificates, vessel title certificates, vehicle license plates, vehicle registration certificates, vehicle tag certificates, vehicle title certificates, handicapped parking permits, replacement driver’s license and replacement identification cards;
  • Exempt from 49 CFR Parts 390-399 regulations for 30 days starting Sept. 4.
  • Relief from size and weight restrictions for divisible loads.

Furthermore, Scott directed the Florida Department of Transportation to suspend tolls across the entire state.

“(Tolls) will be suspended for the duration of the storm’s impacts to Florida,” Scott said in a statement. “Ensuring the safety of Florida families and visitors is our top priority and suspending tolls statewide will help people quickly evacuate and make it easier for all Floridians to access important hurricane supplies to ensure they are fully prepared.”

According to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s Truck Insurance Department, a moratorium for businesses in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina has been installed. New insurance policies or increases to outstanding liability will not be granted within 100 miles of any coastal area with those states. The cease bind applies to all commercial property, inland marine, personal lines, homeowners and transportation risks. These restrictions will remain in force until the storm has passed and until 24 hours after the tropical storm/hurricane watch or warnings go down, or policyholders receive a notification.
As of press time, mandatory evacuation orders have been set in place for Monroe County only. Miami-Dade County has advised residents in low-lying areas to evacuate on Wednesday, Sept. 6. Voluntary evacuations have been issued for mobile homes and low-lying areas in Broward Country as well as Collier County at Marco Island.

Florida also activated 100 members of the Florida Air and Army National Guard on Monday for the planning, logistics and operations of potential impacts from Hurricane Irma, according to the governor’s office. An additional 900 were added on Wednesday. All 7,000 National Guard members will be reporting for duty on Friday morning, possibly sooner if needed.

During Hurricane Harvey, there were several claims of fuel price gouging. Anyone who spots price gouging in Florida should report the incident to the attorney general at 866-966-7226.

As of 4 p.m. ET, Irma was sustaining 185 mph winds as a Category 5 storm just north of the British Virgin Islands approximately 1,100 miles southeast of Key Largo. Forecasts have Irma moving towards Florida and reaching landfall on Sunday morning.

As of press time, Irma is the second strongest Atlantic hurricane on record in terms of sustained winds, trailing only Hurricane Allen in 1980, which hit sustained winds of 190 mph. Three other hurricanes – Wilma (2005), Gilbert (1988) and “Labor Day” (1935) – have recorded sustained winds of 185 mph. Adjusted for strongest winds at landfall in the U.S., the Labor Day hurricane that struck the Florida Keys at 160 mph was the strongest, followed by Camille (150 mph) and Andrew (145 mph), according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data.

In regards to intensity measured by pressure, Irma has yet to rank in the top ten. Wilma reached a low pressure of 882 mb in 2005. However, a hurricane in the Florida Keys in 1935 had a low pressure of 892 mb when it struck, the lowest to reach landfall. So far, Irma’s lowest pressure has been 914 mb.

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