Irma: 5 things Minnesotans should tell loved ones in Florida

Published 5:00 pm Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hurricane Irma is ravaging the Caribbean and taking aim at Florida. Fears are mounting about flooding and massive power outages, and weather professionals are vexed that talk show host Rush Limbaugh appears to be downplaying the danger.

There’s a lot of worry and confusion. While Minnesota’s far removed geographically, thousands of Minnesotans have friends and family in Florida, especially in the Ft. Myers area. What should we be telling them?

“It’s a tough call,” said MPR News meteorologist Bill Endersen, since it’s not perfectly clear how Irma will track and which parts of Florida will get the worst. “I can’t give a definitive answer, except that getting out would be excellent if possible.”

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Here are the points he said he’d suggest Minnesotans make to their loved ones down south as they try to figure out what to do:

• Irma is not only extremely powerful but also very large. It could cover the whole width of Florida.

• The strongest hurricane winds are usually on the right front quarter of the storm, so that could mean Ft. Myers might be spared the worst of it. However, conditions could still be bad for those living in mobile or manufactured homes.

• If you stay, know if you are at risk for inundation due to storm surge (Ft. Myers Beach, for instance, is likely to be much worse than Ft. Myers). If so, know where there is shelter on higher ground.

• If you’re already on higher ground, know where there would be nearby shelter from the winds, and make sure you get there before it’s too late.

• If you stay, make sure you have important papers (passport, etc.), cash and a wallet in a ziplock bag that you can grab quickly.

Endersen also suggested Minnesotans make sure their loved ones keep a close eye on the forecast track from the National Hurricane Center as well as news from the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office, which covers Ft. Myers.