Hurricane Irma has strengthened to a Category 5 storm, increasing the chances of catastrophic damage in the Florida Keys and southern Florida this weekend.
The upgrade has prompted states of emergency in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida, according to Fox News.
At 11 a.m. the eye of Hurricane Irma was moving toward the west near 14 mph and was expected to continue that path today before turning toward the west-northwest tonight, the National Hurricane Center said.
“On the forecast track, the extremely dangerous core of Irma is forecast to move over portions of the northern Leeward Islands tonight and early Wednesday,” the NHC said.
Reports from an Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds are near 180 mph, with higher gusts.
“Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days,” the NHC said.
BoatUS was urging boaters to prepare ahead of the storm, but that proved challenging for some in Florida. Though it is not expected to affect the state until Friday or Saturday, if at all, boaters were already looking for haul boats and find facilities for them.
“We just made a lot of calls to see if we can haul out our [sailing] catamaran,” Florida boater and resident Terry Boram told Trade Only Today. “No room at the inn. We are reducing windage today, then heading to Miami Marine Stadium tomorrow. This storm is no joke.”
There is limited space at FB Marine Group, with three locations in Pompano, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, said FB Marine president Randy Sweers.
“In the marine and storage industry we have everybody calling us asking to put their boat inside, but we only have limited space,” Sweers said.
The company has a hurricane storage program in which customers prepay to get their boats put inside; in the event of a hurricane, those customers take precedence.
“It’s a lot of boats getting hauled out. It closes us down,” Sweers said. “It’s 10 days that becomes zero revenue.”
The hurricane is also affecting sales, Sweers said. A few sales that were set to close Friday are in limbo because customers can’t get insurance.
For now, his biggest concern is the Pompano brand, which is the largest and has a 10,000-square-foot facility.
“If you don’t take the threat seriously and something happens, it’s a big problem. We have a lot of customers who want to bring their boats to us,” Sweers said. “It’s not a situation you want to be to have to say no.”