LIVE UPDATES: Tropical Storm Irma in Alabama, power outages affect thousands

September 10, 2017

By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, 8:55 p.m.–The center of Tropical Depression Irma has crossed the Georgia-Alabama line near Phenix City, Alabama.

Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, 7:26 p.m.–The Alabama Emergency Management Agency said strong winds will continue in Alabama till 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday.

Previously, the EMA estimated that strong winds would dissipate at 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday. The agency said flash flooding is possible and the chance of tornadoes are low in the state.

The eye of Tropical Storm Irma is expected to cross into Alabama around 9:00 p.m. near Phenix City, Alabama.

Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, 5:08 p.m.–President Donald Trump approved Gov. Kay Ivey’s request for federal assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and declared an emergency exists in Alabama.

Trump, who spoke with Ivey Sunday, directed FEMA to supplement the response already being coordinated by the State Emergency Management Agency. FEMA will coordinate all relief efforts as Alabama recovers from Tropical Storm Irma.

FEMA’s assets in Alabama include the following.

  • 5 million meals
  • 100,000 tarps
  • more than 2 million liters of water
  • 47,000 blankets
  • nearly 19,000 cots

Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, 4:09 p.m.–Alabama Power reports 45,000 power outages around the state. The organization reports that there are 23,000 in Eufaula, Alabama, alone and most effected homes are in the eastern parts of the state.

The company said returning power to effected areas can be challenging considering the strong winds coming to the eastern part of the state.

Strong winds are expected to continue until 2:00 a.m. Tuesday.

Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, 2:05 p.m.–The National Weather Service in Birmingham said several counties in East Alabama are reporting damage from falling trees. Again, the worst wind is supposed to occur between 2:00 p.m. today and 2:00 a.m. Tuesday.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued an executive order extending in person voter registration in the U.S. Senate runoff race. Ivey extended it by one day and said she will consider extending it more if the state offices cannot operate on Tuesday.

Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, Noon.–The eye of Tropical Storm Irma crossed the Florida-Georgia border near the city of Thomasville, Georgia.

The former hurricane is now making its way westward to cross into Alabama. Most likely, the eye of the storm will cross into Alabama sometime this evening. The EMA said the strongest wind will be between 2:00 p.m. today and 2:00 a.m. tomorrow.

The National Weather Service in Birmingham reported that wind gusts in Barbour and Russell counties peaked at 40 to 45 mph. The Russell county Emergency Operations Center said it received several reports of damage from citizens already.

Brian Hastings, the director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, said on Twitter that the EMA is focusing on helping Irma evacuees from Florida with basic needs and preparing for strong winds in East Alabama.

Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, 11:21 a.m.–The Alabama Emergency Management Agency said wind gusts south of Dothan, Alabama, were measured at 40 mph at 9:00 a.m. today. The EMA said the strongest winds will occur between 2:00 p.m. Monday and 2:00 a.m. Tuesday.

A meteorologist for the EMA said wind could reach 25 to 35 mph for areas under tropical storm warnings. Wind advisory areas–mainly in West Alabama–will experience wind 20 to 30 mph.

Rainfall is expected to be 2-4 inches for tropical storm warning areas and 1-3 inches for other areas.

The agency said the wind will substantially die down after early Tuesday morning. The chance for tornadoes in the state are low, according to the EMA. The State Emergency Operation Center in Clanton, Alabama, is currently monitoring the situation.

Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, 9:12 a.m.–The National Weather Service in Huntsville cancelled tropical storm warnings in northern Alabama as Irma weakens on its path northward.

Heavy rain and wind are still expected but they won’t reach the threshold to be considered tropical storm winds which are  sustained winds between 39 to 73 mph. Sustained winds in the area will still be 25 to 30 mph and wind gusts could reach 40 to 45 mph.

Tropical storm warnings are still in effect for most central, eastern and southeastern counties in Alabama.

Irma is expected to be downgraded to a tropical depression by the time it reaches North Alabama.

Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, 8:03 a.m.–The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Irma has now been downgraded to a tropical storm as it travels to the Georgia-Florida border.

Despite being downgraded, the tropical storm still presents danger to Alabama citizens as it travels further into the state. Central, central and southeastern Alabama counties will soon be within the storm’s range. Winds are still strong enough to knock down power lines and trees.

Millions of homes in Florida have reported power outages as the tropical storm leaves the southern part of the state.

Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, 6:57 a.m.–Hurricane Irma, whose eye is still in Florida, has begun to affect Alabama. Tropical storm-like conditions have been reported in Alabama’s southeastern counties. The National Hurricane Center defines this as sustained wind speeds of 39 to 73 mph.

The Center expects the storm to cross the Florida-Georgia border later today as a tropical storm. Currently, Irma is a category 1 hurricane just north of Tampa, Florida.

Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, 11:13 p.m.–Gov. Kay Ivey announced Sunday evening that state offices around Alabama will be closed on Monday as Hurricane Irma approaches the state. State offices closing are mostly in central and southeastern counties under tropical storm warnings.

The offices close on a crucial date when Monday is the deadline to register to vote in the U.S. Senate runoff election later this month. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said Alabama citizens will still be able to register online before 11:59 p.m. on Monday. Citizens will not be able to file paperwork to register to vote in person at a local courthouse.

Merrill said there is no provision in state law that would allow acceptance of in-person registration past the deadline of 5:00 p.m. on Monday even if the office is closed.

Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, 11:31 a.m.–Floridians poured into Alabama this weekend to escape Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in the United States Sunday morning.

While it is not yet known exactly how many have come through Alabama, the Florida Department of Energy Management estimates that 6.3 million Floridians were ordered to evacuate; making it one of the biggest evacuations in U.S. history.

Multiple Alabama cities have reported full capacities in their hotels and motels, and hurricane evacuation routes were host to thousands of Florida license plate tags as they travel northbound.

The Alabama State Parks System opened 17 parks in Alabama for evacuees to lodge. As of noon on Friday, 14 parks reported opening slots.

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott told residents in mandatory evacuation areas to leave immediately at a Saturday news conference in Sarasota, Florida. Scott said the hurricane is something that the state has never seen before.

“If you’ve been ordered to evacuate, you need to leave now,” Scott said. “Do not wait. Evacuate. Not tonight, not in an hour. You need to go right now.”

Scott further advised southeastern citizens to be on the road by noon on Saturday or not leave at all.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey stressed that Alabama must be prepared for the incoming hurricane.

“As Hurricane Irma makes landfall in the United States, Alabama must be prepared in the event the storm comes our way,” Ivey said. “We must also be prepared to help meet the needs of our neighboring states that may face the brunt of the storm. I have spoken with Governor Scott of Florida and pledged the full support of the people of Alabama.”

The hurricane hit the Florida Keys this weekend as a category 4 hurricane and it is expected to be downgraded as it travels north up the state of Florida. The National Hurricane Center in Miami estimates that Hurricane Irma will be a category 1 or even a tropical storm by the time the eye of the storm crosses into Alabama.

The National Weather Service issued tropical storm warnings for southeastern and central Alabama counties Sunday morning.

Jim Stefkovich, a meteorologist for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, said the storm will not cause widespread flooding issues and that expected winds gusts could knock down trees and power lines.

“Beginning Monday morning through Tuesday afternoon, sustained winds of 15-25 mph will occur, with gusts approaching 40 mph for areas near and east I-65, and possibly as high as 55 mph for far east AL,” Stefkovich said. “Winds will decrease in both sustained speeds and gusts from south to north from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning.”

Stefkovich stressed that the overall impact on Alabama will be nothing compared to the damage in Florida and Georgia.

Ivey issued a state of emergency on Friday as the storm’s surge would surely fall on Alabama. Ivey authorized the activation of the State Emergency Operations Center in Clanton, Alabama, and ordered the activation of the Alabama National Guard on Saturday.

“I want to ensure that our people are in place to respond immediately to whatever Irma may bring our way,” Ivey said in a statement. “We are ready to protect the people of Alabama and those who have recently sought refuge in our state.”

Ivey also said she spoke with President Donald Trump on Sunday about relief efforts coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Trump met with his cabinet at Camp David, Maryland, Saturday to discuss Irma.

As a precaution, many schools and universities have cancelled classes for Monday and Tuesday as the hurricane passes over Alabama.

The hurricane’s storm surge is expected to hit Alabama Monday.

 

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