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Irma’s bands activate tornado watches in South Florida

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for South Florida, effective immediately until midnight.

Broward, Glades, Miami-Dade, Charlotte, Hendry, Monroe, Collier, Lee and Palm Beach counties fall under the watch.

As Hurricane Irma inches toward the Florida Keys, South Florida will begin to feel the effects of the storm through rain bands.

According to the NWS, Irma is moving west at 9 mph, sustaining maximum winds of 125 mph, decreasing its strength to a Category 3 storm.

Nevertheless, Irma still has the potential to regain strength as it pummels through the Keys, and could return as category 4 or 5 hurricane.

As a response to Irma’s catastrophic threats, Lee County has issued mandatory evacuations for areas most prone to storm surge disasters.

A storm surge is defined as a rapid rise in sea level caused by areas of high and low pressure. It is often the most devastating effect of hurricanes because of the damage this flooding can cause.

Forecasters expect Irma to create anywhere between 15-25 feet of storm surge as she roars through South Florida.

To facilitate the process of evacuation, Lee County has divided into five surge zones listed A-E. Cities listed in zone A, like Sanibel, can experience up tide heights of 8.7 feet.

Residents are encouraged to look-up their zone on the Lee County website.

According to The News-Press, Lee County has expanded its mandatory evacuations to Zone B, which includes parts of the Caloosahatchee River and Pine Island Road in Cape Coral.

To accommodate evacuees, shelters have opened in Lee County, and all but Germain Arena are pet friendly.

Those who bring a pet with them are reminded to bring crates for their pet, and up to date vaccinations.

Alico Arena will also serve as a public shelter as requested by the State. FGCU’s Eagle Hall in Sovi will function as a shelter for residential students.

According to a Facebook post by FGCU’s official page, Alico Arena will shelter about 3,000 people when it usually holds about 1,600 for storm sheltering.

The decision to move students to Eagle Hall was for student’s comfort, the post said. The building will have a generator on-site and students will receive food from the University’s Food Services.

Vice President for Student Affairs J. Michael Rollo, officers with the University Police Department and 10 professional staff members will be on-site with students, the post said.

Irma is expected to make landfall in South Florida Sunday morning.

Check up on Eagle News for more updates.

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