Irma impact

By Wallace Golding, Managing Editor, and Sufia Alam, Campus Editor

Just 16 days after the Texas coast was devastated by Hurricane Harvey, south Floridians awoke Sunday morning to Hurricane Irma hammering the Florida Keys. This event was the first time in 166 years that two Category 4 storms made landfall on the continental United States in the same year.

Irma is expected to continue up the Florida gulf coast, passing over Tampa and Tallahassee, and into Georgia and Alabama in the coming days. National Weather Service storm tracks predict that the hurricane’s remnants will reach Birmingham early Tuesday morning.

UAB administrators met with weather service officials Sunday afternoon to discuss the university’s plan going into the week. The University will continue its operations as usual Monday and continue to monitor radar and consult with meteorologists, according to an official university statement.

Mugdha Mokashi Undergraduate Student Government Association president, expressed her concern with the decision.

“I’m hopeful that things will be monitored continuously throughout tomorrow and Tuesday,” Mokashi said. “I am very concerned for the safety of our commuter students and our students that will be walking to class in any bad weather.

Given the path of Irma, the Birmingham branch of the weather service has determined that the metro area will be placed under a wind warning from 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 11, to 11 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12. Wind speeds are expected to be between 20 and 35 mph with gusts up to 55 mph.

Campus officials will spend the coming hours making arrangements for worst-case scenarios.

“Each building has a response plan depending on the weather,” said Jacob Baggott, assistant vice president of student development, health and wellness. “If it levels off, we will communicate with staff and students with coordinated efforts.”

Future decisions will be communicated to students via UAB’s emergency alert system, B-Alert.

“The best thing to do is follow the emergency guidelines shared with you and create an awareness with what is happening around you,” Baggott said.

The storm made its first landfall at 9:10 a.m. Eastern time at Cudjoe Key, Florida, with sustained winds of 130 mph and gusts up to 145 mph. The second landfall was made at Marco Island, Florida, at 3:35 p.m. Eastern time as a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of nearly 120 mph.

Meteorologists originally believed the storm would make landfall on Florida’s east coast, putting Miami in the hurricane’s crosshairs. Evacuations preceded the storm by days, but the late change of path by the system left many citizens of the state’s western coastline in harm’s way.

More than 6 million people were ordered to evacuate the week before by Florida Governor Rick Scott, most along the state’s 1,350 miles of coastline. Citing reports by the weather service, Scott said the storm was “life-threatening.”

Wallace Golding can be reached at wsgoldin@uab.edu or on Twitter @WGolding_4. Sufia Alam can be reached at sufia@uab.edu.

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