Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hurricane Irma update

Hurricane Irma striking Barbuda, Sep 5, 2017
Hurricane Irma projected path as of 8AM, Sep 6, 2017
Hurricane Irma strengthened further yesterday becoming a very dangerous high end Category 5 hurricane with winds that reached 185 MPH sustained with higher gusts (only one other storm in the Atlantic, Hurricane Allen in 1980, had stronger winds at 190 MPH).  The pressure has dropped to 916 mb and the storm looks to maintain this strength or become even stronger. There is really nothing of consequence stopping the storm as the conditions are damn near perfect for it. At this point the northern Lesser Antilles have already been directly impacted with the storm hitting Barbuda last night and Saint Martin getting hit now.  The islands that take a direct hit will undoubtedly experience catastrophic destruction...a storm of this power will level most everything. Irma becomes one of the strongest hurricanes ever in the Atlantic basin and the strongest storm ever outside of the Gulf of Mexico or north of the Caribbean so a record breaking storm already. The projected storm track continues to show the storm being a major threat for a direct hit to the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles before almost certainly having a direct impact to the United States. Florida is almost certainly to be hit but the real question is exactly where on the peninsula.  The latest guidance points away from the storm making it across the peninsula and impacting the Gulf of Mexico side but instead the storm is likely to track up the peninsula or stay just offshore on the east coast...still question marks but make no mistake the storm will impact the US mainland in some form.

What effect will the storm have on bird life? Migrants will likely fly around the storm (if they have the ability) but many will certainly perish in the storm. The birds on the islands will also take a major hit with winds from a Category 5 storm but hopefully they will find some places to hide out and ride out the storm.  There are a number of endemic species that could suffer some heavy loss due to their restricted range on some of the islands being directly impacted (the Barbuda Warbler comes to mind as one example).  Pelagic birds will certainly be entrained within the storm and once landfall occurs the birds that survive will be dumped inland...where that happen will depend on the track of the storm...more on that later.

There is also a newly named storm (TS Jose) behind Irma that also could develop into another hurricane and track up through the northern Lesser Antilles but more about that at a later time.

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