Hurricane Irma’s Potential Impact in Florida 


 

Recently, Florida’s Division of Emergency Management said that officials have issued a mix of mandatory and voluntary evacuation, affecting ~6.3 million people, as Hurricane Irma approaches. As of Saturday analysts have projected the material damage to cost up to $200 billion. To compare, the total losses from Katrina reached $160 billion in 2017, 12 years after it slammed into New Orleans. Irma comes just two weeks after hurricane Harvey wreacked havoc in Texas, knocking offline nearly a quarter of the US oil refining capacity, causing widespread power outages and flooding.

The size and trajectory, which shifted West over the weekend, prompting officials to order evacuations along the coasts of Florida. Earlier this week, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a pre-emptive state of emergency, announcing that tolls would be suspended across the state and the activation of 7000 National Guard troops. Florida is the country’s third largest state with a population of roughly 21 million people.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the massive hurricane hit the Florida keys late Saturday and will continue inland Sunday. Irma’s top winds have reached 155 miles and hour and the storm has only grown in size. The hurricane is now a Category 4 storm, however Irma has been forecasted to regain power through Sunday, potentially becoming a Category 5 again. Much of Florida will face hurricane-force winds as it proceeds through the peninsula and into Georgia. So far the storm has taken the lives of at least 21 people, and has left thousands homeless across the Caribbean.

According to Florida Power & Light Co., the state’s largest utility, about 9 million people may lose power. There is also concern Irma may curb natural gas demand, threatening $1.2 billion worth of crops, in one of the country’s largest markets. On Friday there were reports that 40 percent of Miami’s gas stations were dry, as residents looked to stock up on the supply ahead of the storm.

“A direct hit from Irma could disrupt rail and container activity, and damage infrastructure for transportation, in addition to putting thousands of lives at risk. Combined with rainfall, then we are looking at catastrophic flooding to a vast area that already has problems with water levels. Real estate risks are simply gigantic,” Roberto Friedlander, head of energy trading for Seaport Global Securities wrote.

Irma’s impact on Florida’s economic sectors, such as real estate, agricultural and tourism, has the potential to be devastating. The tourism industry is Florida’s biggest industry, providing  ~25 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue, and Irma has already caused a negative impact ahead of its landfall; where local hotels have already seen cancellations and an influx of evacuees.

Irma is just one of the three hurricanes in the Atlantic currently. Hurricane Jose’s top winds are currently at 150 miles per hour, but it is looking as if the storm will turn northeast, missing the US. Hurricane Katia is in the Gulf of Mexico and began to make landfall Saturday; adding more devastation and concern from to a country that was just struck by an earthquake Friday.

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