All eyes on Irma

Published 11:47 am Friday, September 8, 2017

“We remember Ivan.”

That’s the thought of many local residents as eyes anxiously watch news of Hurricane Irma’s approach to Florida.

A category 3 storm, a sudden turn in the Gulf of Mexico put landfall at Gulf Shores and left utter devastation in its wake of 130-mph winds.

In Escambia County, the storm needs no explanation, and as Irma approaches, so does the sense of dread locally.

Current forecasts put the greater Brewton area on the “good side” of Irma, meaning – after hitting Florida – the brunt of its winds and rain are expected to impact Georgia.

The National Hurricane Center’s mid-morning report Friday is forecasting a west-northwest motion heading into the weekend. A turn to the northwest is expected late Saturday. By Sunday morning, the colossal Category 4 storm near the Florida Keys and southern Florida Peninsula Sunday morning.

Currently, Irma’s maximum sustained winds are near 150 mph with higher gusts. While some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, forecasters believe Irma will remain a powerful category 4 hurricane as it approaches Florida.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the storm’s center and tropical force winds extend outward up to 185 miles, which means those winds are expected to arrive Sunday night and Monday morning locally.

Thursday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott closed all schools, universities and colleges to make way for scores of evacuees following mandatory evacuation notices for southern areas of the state.

Locally, here’s what we know about what’s happening now to prepare in the Brewton area.

City officials have contingency plans in place should the storm threaten the area and will have essential emergency response staff on standby should that occur.

As of the present, there has been no call from the EMA for shelters here.

Chris Griffin, D.W. McMillan Hospital administrator, said hospital leaders continue to monitor the weather situation.

“We have been monitoring all week and even back into last week and trying to keep our leaders and teams current on the status and changes with the storm,” he said.

“We have retested our generators this week, top off fuel for generators, added to our medical supply order for the week as well as our dietary supply order,” he said. “We have asked each of our leaders to continue with planning and preparation for the situation.”

He said early this morning the Alabama Incident Management System (AIMS) was active for Alabama hospitals.

“What that means is we provide input daily through this system as to bed availability and such,” he said. “It is likely that we may need to accept some patients from other areas as everything pushes north.”

This story will be updated as new forecast information becomes available.