The thoughts of many Islanders are focused on Florida today as hurricane Irma hurtles towards the Sunshine State.
The latest forecasts are all in agreement – Irma will deliver a direct and lethal blow, making landfall near the southern tip and then moving up the length of the state before plowing into Georgia and the Carolinas. The storm is so large, it will engulf the entire width of Florida as it batters its way northward.
It might seem a bit selfish – since millions of Florida residents face imminent threat to life and property later today and Sunday – but many Canadians also have a direct stake in what happens this weekend in the state.
Thousands of Islanders have winter homes, apartments and trailers throughout the state. Several million other Canadians are in the same situation. Islanders, who live in Florida for the winter, are safe here now, but with their fingers crossed. Many Florida residents, who come north to escape the oppressive heat and hurricane threats, are thankful they are here as well, but are desperately worried about their families, friends and neighbours; their homes and property.
Only New England might have a closer U.S. connection for Islanders. Florida is an annual destination for many of us – a winter getaway to Disney World with the kids, to golf courses, beaches, pools, and those warm sunny days – all for a temporary escape to make our harsh winters on P.E.I. a little more tolerable.
Many of our winter destinations could be damaged or destroyed once Irma passes through. We may have to delay our usual trip south this winter until the state recovers and rebuilds. We’ll just have to wait and see, and hope for the best.
While most people are fleeing north, others are heading south - ready to help with the recovery. Those include P.E.I. power crews who are on their way to Florida to help restore electricity as soon as the storm passes.
Irma, the strongest Atlantic hurricane in history, is forecast to come ashore as a category 4 storm, perhaps even a category 5. It’s impossible to visualize what wind gusts to 300 km are like, yet Irma already delivered that kind of destructive blow to some areas of the Caribbean this week.
More than a million Floridians are under evacuation orders. Millions more didn’t wait – they already left or are enroute north to safety. They saw what hurricane Harvey did to Houston two weeks ago – mostly from massive rainfalls and flooding. This time, monster winds will pose the greatest threat.
The warnings used by the Florida governor – who issued a state of emergency a week ago - officials and forecasters are chilling: extreme threat to life and property; and catastrophic destruction.
It’s Mother Nature gone berserk.
The thoughts and prayers of Canadians and visitors alike are with our friends, neighbours and family members in Florida. We hope that the state comes through this hurricane threat with its people safe, its infrastructure intact and its spirit unbroken.