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Forecasts show Hurricane Irene going east of Florida

By Staff | Aug 22, 2011

Although the 5 p.m. Monday advisory for Hurricane Irene indicates the storm is projected to hit Myrtle Beach, S.C., later this week with category 3 force winds of 115 mph, Florida is still not in the clear from feeling the affects of the storm.

Paul Close, forecaster out of the Tampa Bay office of the National Weather Service, said the 5 p.m. Monday advisory of Hurricane Irene shows the storm going west/northwest at 13 mph with 80 mph winds. He said the storm is projected to turn northwest and then eventually north.

Late Monday afternoon, the core of Hurricane Irene was projected to move north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti Monday night. It was expected to continue near or over the Turks, Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas today and near the central Bahamas early Wednesday.

He said the cone of error currently is projected anywhere from the upper Florida Keys to the outer banks of North Carolina.

Close said Monday the advisory is projecting the center of the storm to hit Myrtle Beach in 120 hours.

“They are saying it is going to be a category 3 storm when it comes on shore with 115 mph winds,” Close said.

The United States, he said, did not have any hurricane watches or warnings as of 5 p.m. Monday.

If the storm stays on the projected path, south Florida will feel the affects of the storm late Thursday as it passes by east of Florida.

If the outer bands are far enough away from south Florida, Close said, residents will experience drier air with not much rain.

Ernie Jillson, also a forecaster out of the Tampa Bay office of the National Weather Service, said Irene made landfall on Puerto Rico between 1 and 3 a.m. Monday and became a hurricane as it crossed Puerto Rico.

Advisories are being provided every three hours of Hurricane Irene’s progress.

Close encourages individuals to still watch the storm for the next few days.

Red Cross Communications Director Colin Downey said the center has not mobilized any people yet, but discussions had been made regarding Hurricane Irene early Monday morning. He said he was a part of a statewide conference call Monday morning with disaster directors and disaster leadership from across the state of Florida, along with its national headquarters to continue communication about Hurricane Irene.

“We need to make sure our volunteers are prepared to help in the event of the disaster and be prepared to keep their families safe because they have the same needs and concerns as everyone else,” Downey said.

A 128-hour plan is in place right now.

“We look at that plan and we have steps in place that we will take depending on the forecast of the storm,” he said.

Cape Coral Public Information Director Connie Barron said the city has not activated its emergency operation center yet.

“We continue to track the storm, and if the forecast track shows a clear threat in the next 24 hours, we probably would start mobilizing/activating the EOC at some level,” she said. “Right now, the track is continuing to move east and away from us.”

There are certain things individuals should do to prepare, if they have not already done so, in the case that Hurricane Irene affects Southwest Florida.

“At this point we are really hoping people pull out their kits and make sure there are no expired items,” Downey said, adding that he encourages individuals to talk to their families and keep an eye on the news.

He encourages people not to panic, but rather be responsible in preparing for a possible hurricane.

One of the extremely important items that should be included in a hurricane kit is water. Downey recommends one gallon of water per person, per day with at least a three-day supply.

“That could be quite a bit of water,” he said, adding that it is “really necessary particularly with the hot and muggy weather we are having.”

Other typical items that individuals know should be included in their hurricane kit are non-perishable, easy to prepare food items, a flashlight with spare batteries and a battery powered or hand crank NOAA radio.

“That is the best way to stay informed if the power goes out and we don’t have access to the television or Internet,” Downey said.

Less known items that should be apart of a hurricane kit include a seven-day supply of medications needed, a copy of personal documents, a list of medications, proof of address, passports, drivers license and a copy of insurance policies.

“That can save a lot of headache and heartache following a hurricane,” he said.

In addition, individuals should have a few hundred dollars in cash in their hands before a hurricane hits because they cannot expect to pull money from an ATM after one strikes the area.

A plan for pets should also be in place in the event of a hurricane. Downey said individuals should not count on there being a shelter available for their pets or the ability to bring them to a hotel with them.

For additional information on how to prepare for a hurricane, visit www.gulfcoastredcross.org.