The Miami skyline view from Key Biscayne. (© Can Stock Photo / wmiami)

Former Londoner In Miami As Irma Approaches

As tourists and residents in the Florida Keys prepare to leave with Hurricane Irma on track to hit the state, one former Londoner living in Miami is hoping for the best.

Shirley van der Venne says she and many others in the city still went to work on Wednesday.

“Really, there’s nothing else to do,” says van der Venne. “The weather is fine right now — it’s a beautiful looking morning with the sun coming up… the worst of [the storm] isn’t supposed to happen in Miami until Sunday.”

Schools in Miami are taking extra precautions, though — van der Venne says most of them are expected to close Wednesday or Thursday as Irma continues to be on track to hit the Florida panhandle over the weekend.

She says it’s the worst storm she has seen approaching Florida since she moved there about five years ago.

“When it started, we were like, ‘Oh, it’s way out there,’ and you kind of have a blanket of security, especially with what happened last time here,” says van der Venne. “Everybody got ready for this big hurricane and nothing happened.”

Almost exactly one year ago, in early September 2016, Hurricane Hermine made landfall in Florida, becoming the first hurricane to do so in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

However, Hermine moved further up the coast than Miami, moving in from the Gulf of Mexico to hit northwestern Florida before moving across Georgia and into North and South Carolina.

This time, the storm is expected to track further south, possibly moving directly over the Florida Keys and onto Florida’s southern tip.

“You almost feel like, yeah, sure hurricanes happen, and then obviously, we just saw what happened with Harvey and that makes it even more terrifying,” says van der Venne. “There’s not a whole lot you can do to get out of its path.”

The National Hurricane Center says as of 8am Wednesday, Irma was on track to move over portions of the northern Virgin Islands, pass near or just north of Puerto Rico, and make its way near or just north of the coast of the Dominican Republic Thursday.

The maximum sustained winds are still near 295 km/h with higher gusts also taking place.