The National Hurricane Center has now made official what everyone in Miami has feared since late last week: The entirety of South Florida is now under a hurricane warning and a storm surge warning as massive Hurricane Irma bears down on the state.
In its 11 p.m. advisory, the Hurricane Center issued the warnings from Jupiter Inlet south through the Keys and all the way around the peninsula up through Naples and nearly to Fort Myers. That means that dangerous storm surges and full hurricane conditions are expected in the region within the next 36 hours.
As Irma's path edges further west, it's increasingly clear the west coast is no more safe than Miami. The meteorologists have also issued a hurricane watch from Bonita Beach north to Ana Maria Island, which is just west of Bradenton, and from Jupiter up to Sebastian Inlet. Based on the latest warning cones, virtually the entire state of Florida could be raked by the massive storm.
The latest report is very bad news for the thousands of Miamians who fled the storm's path to the Gulf Coast of the state — if the projections pan out, Irma could be the rare storm to equally threaten both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts while also wreaking havoc on Central Florida. That would truly be a worst-case scenario for a state that has been playing with house money for years by avoiding major hurricane disasters.
For now, this much is certain: Irma remains enormous and menacing. Maximum winds have slowed a hair to 165 miles per hour, which still leaves it as a Category 5 cane. Though NOAA notes that intensity could fluctuate from a category 4 to 5 over the next several days, it's not expected to weaken beyond that.
Storm surge is now all but certain across South Florida, with forecasts calling for from five to ten feet all along the coastline.
"This is a life-threatening situation," NOAA writes. "Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions."
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