God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken
and mountains quake to the depths of the sea,
Though its waters rage and foam
and mountains totter at its surging.
Tampa Bay Times reports this morning, Sept. 10, 2017, that Hurricane Irma has regained its Category 4 strength as the storm’s center made landfall in the lower Florida Keys as of 8 a.m., with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph.
Category 4 means sustained winds of 130-156 mph, and damages to houses, trees and power lines which could make places unlivable for weeks or months after.
Irma is centered about 30 miles east-southeast of Key West and about 110 miles south of Naples, moving north-northwest at 8 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 220 miles. A wind gust to 89 mph was recorded in Key West, and sustained winds of 46 mph with a gust to 72 mph was recorded at Tamiami Airport in West Kendall.
The leading edge of the immense storm bent palm trees and spit rain across South Florida, knocking out power to more than 170,000 homes and businesses, as the eye approached Key West.
“Tonight, I’m sweating. Tonight I’m scared to death,” said 60-year-old Carol Walterson Stroud, who sought refuge in a senior center in Florida’s southernmost city with her husband, granddaughter and dog Saturday night. The streets emptied and shops were boarded up before the wind started to howl.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott had warned residents in the state’s evacuation zones Saturday that “this is your last chance to make a good decision.” About 6.4 million people were told to flee. But because the storm is 350 to 400 miles wide, the entire Florida peninsula was exposed. Forecasters said the greater Miami area of 6 million people could still get life-threatening hurricane winds and storm surge of 4 to 6 feet.
The storm is forecast to weaken as it moves over the lower Keys and near or over the state’s west coast — including the Tampa Bay region — later today through tonight, potentially sparing Tampa as well Miami the catastrophic head-on blow forecasters had been warning about. But those few miles meant St. Petersburg could get a direct hit.
If the surge occurs at high tide, areas in Tampa Bay — from Ana Maria Island to Clearwater Beach — could experience 5 to 8 feet of storm surge. Forecasters warned of storm surge as high as 15 feet.
Meteorologists predicted Irma would plow into the Tampa Bay area Monday morning. The area has not been struck by a major hurricane since 1921, when its population was about 10,000. Now around 3 million people live there.
Given its mammoth size and strength and its course up the peninsula, it could prove one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit Florida, and inflict damage on a scale not seen here in 25 years.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew smashed into suburban Miami with winds topping 165 mph, damaging or blowing apart over 125,000 homes. The damage in Florida totaled $26 billion, and at least 40 people died.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you,
If two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,