Due to changing storm conditions, the National Hurricane Center has issued a Hurricane Warning for the entire Florida Keys. This is in addition to the current Tropical Storm Warning issued earlier. The track of Tropical Storm Isaac is now taking it over the Florida keys Sunday as a Category One Hurricane.
Because of this change in status, Monroe County Emergency Management is now making a strong recommendation that visitors to the Florida Keys leave the county if they are able to do so safely. Tropical Storm Force winds will begin to hit the island chain on Sunday morning, so those who can leave should do so this morning (Saturday).
For those visitors who choose to remain, Emergency Management Director Irene Toner says she is directing them to stay inside during the storm. “If you choose to remain in the county during this storm, the only safe place for you to be is inside. Our goal here is to keep everyone safe,” she said.
Mobile home residents, low lying areas residents and those residing on their boats are also directed to seek shelter at one of the designated shelter facilities. Shelters will be opening at Key West High School, Stanley Switlik School in Marathon and Coral Shores High School at 2:00 pm today, Saturday. Stand by as more shelter locations may be announced later today. If you plan to go to a shelter, make sure to bring all necessary supplies with you. The shelters WILL NOT have any supplies. Bring bedding, food, medicine and anything you might need to entertain yourself and your family members. Alcoholic beverages will not be allowed in the shelters. Monroe County Shelters are pet friendly, but if you bring your pet with you, the pet will be housed in a separate location from where people are housed.
There are many areas on county and city roadways where water does not drain well, or where saltwater encroaches on the roadway, making driving hazardous. In residential areas, people driving through standing water can cause wakes which can wash into yards and into homes. Due to all of these issues, people should not be driving anywhere during the storm.
County offices, Sheriff’s Offices, Schools and the County Courts will be closed on Monday. Of course Sheriff’s Office dispatchers, law enforcement and corrections personnel, firefighters and paramedics will still be working to keep residents safe and secure.
Key West International Airport will be stopping commercial air traffic Saturday evening at 7 p.m. and all day Sunday. Flights will resume when tropical storm force winds subside and it is judged safe to resume traffic. People should keep in touch with their commercial carriers for details.
Everyone in the Florida Keys should be watching the storm very closely as conditions and timing of the storm remain in flux. Make sure to complete storm preparations on Saturday because the storm, as of today, is projected to arrive early on Sunday.
The Emergency Information hot line number is active, and will have an up to date recorded message with information about the development and approach of the storm. That number is 1-800-955-5504. You can also get up to date information about the storm in the following locations:
· Monroe County’s website: www.monroecounty-fl.gov
· The Sheriff’s Office Blog: floridakeyssheriff.blogspot.com
· Facebook: MCSO-Florida Keys
· Twitter: @mcsonews
· Sheriff’s website: www.keysso.net
Some detailed information from the National Weather Service overnight:
Tropical Storm Warnings have been issued for all of the Florida Keys, with a Hurricane Watch added on top. This means tropical storm force winds are expected to begin within 36 hours, though with such a strong tropical storm expected to pass over or near the Keys, there is a possibility of hurricane force winds. The change in status was made this evening due to the reconnaissance aircraft finding improved organization within the core of Tropical Storm Isaac and its tropical storm force winds extending further out from its center--meaning it's quite a large sized tropical storm.
Wind: Tropical storm force winds are expected to reach the Keys as early as the early morning (predawn) hours Sunday...generally in the 5 and 8 am range from Marathon through Islamorada up through Ocean Reef. For the Lower Keys and Key West, tropical storm force winds may begin later, in the 7 am to 10 am range, Sunday morning. The peak winds, which may reach 50 to 65 mph, will likely occur during the afternoon and evening hours. There is a small chance for category 1 hurricane force winds for some portion of the Keys during that time. Tropical Storm force winds may end during the morning hours Monday in the Middle and Upper Keys, but could last into early afternoon in the Lower Keys and Key West. The main impacts are likely to be power outages and fallen trees and tree limbs. Some damage to awnings and standalone carports may also occur.
Storm Tide: Storm tides of 2 to 4 feet are expected, with the best chance of that occurring along the oceanside of the Keys after the core of Isaac passes by, which will cause the winds to become southeast. The high tide Sunday evening occurs generally between 5 and 8 pm. Around that time, winds will be coming around out of the east, and some overwash will be possible oceanside on Lower Matecumbe, but at this time it doesn't look like it will be a significant surge. With winds near their peak, there will be heavy wave action. As winds become southeast from the Upper Keys to Key West Sunday evening, expect water to remain steady in the Upper Keys, but begin to rise along the Middle and Lower Keys. The higher high tide occurs Monday morning generally from 5 to 8 am on the oceanside. Although southeast winds may be decreasing, the peak storm tide may occur at this time. These levels are probably going to cause some inundation near Sea Oats Beach with continued wave action. These tides will also cause some inundation on oceanside streets throughout the Keys, and in Key West, the southernmost blocks near from Bertha Street through Southernmost Point. Expect overwash with heavy wave action on South Roosevelt as well. The Monday evening high tides, generally 6 to 9 pm, will not be as high, but expect some continued wave action and splashover at Key West as gusty southerly winds (below tropical storm force though) continue. If this forecast track holds...the Upper Keys will see a rise in water levels Sunday afternoon and evening...probably not much change when the onshore winds are near their peak, and then a little more rise towards Monday morning. After sunrise, there should be steady fall. For the Middle and Lower Keys, the Sunday high tides comes before the winds become onshore. So, expect a gradual rise in water as the wind shifts late in the evening, with a more sudden rise with the Monday morning high tide. Tides will fall when the winds decrease after sunrise Monday.
Tornadoes: Isolated tornadoes will be possible with rain bands, mainly for locations east of where the center of Isaac passes through the Keys. These tornadoes can produce narrow paths of significant damage and can develop with little advance warning.
Rainfall: Rainfall of 6 to 10 inches is expected throughout the Keys, with most of the rain falling from Sunday morning through Monday morning. The high tides combined with some storm surge will cause significant street and yard flooding in areas that historically see street flooding. The lowest elevation neighborhoods may also experience some home and business flooding.