Could Hurricane Irma repeat the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926? In terms of landfall in Florida we are currently forecasting a Cat 4 hurricane with seas in excess of 47ft @ 14 secs for Miami's South Beach, which draws unfavourable comparisons with 1926 in terms of historical intensity and track.
It was 91-years-ago, in the month of September, when a Category 4 hurricane blew across Miami Beach and ploughed into downtown Miami, leaving a trail of misery and destruction that remains one of the costliest storms in U.S. history. Winds on the ground were reported around 145mph with a 15ft storm surge (although all data is suspect at such a range). Unfortunately as the eye of the storm passed directly over the city many residents were lured out of shelter by the calm and tried to flee but were caught out. In the aftermath 372 were confirmed dead and 43,000 left homeless, nearly a third of the county’s population.
And on Saturday evening, September 9, a similar Category 4 hurricane is forecast to impact Miami having followed a familiar path through the Caribbean. If the historical path of the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 is correct, then Hurricane Irma's forecast track over warm SSTs slightly to the south is an unwelcome mimic. You can keep an eye on the live track of the storm here.
As Irma barrels towards Florida, Miami-Dade County has ordered an "unprecedented” evacuation with Mayor Carlos Gimenez saying: “We have to prepare for the worst,” moments after instructing residents to leave the city. The Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, urged people to leave without delay and mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for Florida's barrier islands, coastal communities and low-lying areas across Florida, including in Brevard, Broward, Collier, Indian River, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe and St. John's counties.
The NHC say of Irma, "Severe hurricane conditions are expected over portions of the Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys beginning Saturday night. Irma is likely to make landfall in southern Florida as a dangerous major hurricane, and bring life-threatening storm surge and wind impacts to much of the state. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for southern Florida, the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, and Florida Bay, while Hurricane Watches have been issued northward into central Florida."
Floridians have not suffered a direct hit by a major hurricane since Wilma in 2005, but with the clean-up from Harvey in Houston still ongoing and unfortunately diverting resources, the potential reality of the situation is not hard for people to grasp.