ES Views: Waiting was the worst as Hurricane Irma hurtled towards Florida

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It’s the waiting that’s the worst. 

That and trying to guess where the biggest Atlantic storm in history is likely to come ashore. 

Oh, and making sure you are close enough to give a first-hand account of the drama as it takes place, but not too close so you become the drama – and doing it all in 30 degrees of heat and stifling humidity.

I’ve spent the best part of the last week in the glamour of Miami in southern Florida, all big boats and art deco grandeur. But the only talk was of Irma , how mean was she, and how did she stack up against Andrew, the last mythologised killer hurricane to slam these parts.

Local TV and a lot of the networks were wall to wall with “Irmalysing”, and of course the rhetoric was as high octane as the predicted wind speeds .

The immediate run up was spent reporting the preparations for the storm: to flee or not to flee, to shutter or not to shutter, and how long was it safe to prevaricate.

Sky News presenter David Bowden (David Bowden)

Of course it is the reporter’s dilemma to bear all of this in mind while knowing full well you are going to stay, because that’s what you’re paid for.

Destruction: Heavy winds have already torn down trees on Ocean Drive in Florida’s South Beach (Reuters)

Things moved up a gear on Saturday. The weather turned ugly: palm trees shed their fronds, turning the roads into slalom courses.

On the famous Miami Beach , the gentle waters of earlier in the week ,where people had been swimming and laughing, churned angrily as Irma sent her outriders to rough up the die hards who’d stayed.

Now there was horizontal rain stinging your face and winds that whipped the palm fronds into a frenzy. The squall also drenched me and my crew, drowned the camera to uselessness and forced us to broadcast to the Sky news audience using a camera phone in a plastic bag. 

But all of this was mere bagatelle compared with the main event on Sunday. We had to make a break from our hotel as they threatened to lock everyone in (which eventually didn’t happen) to keep Irma out. 

In the early hours, the skies filled with green flashes as electricity transformers popped and tens of thousands of people lost power. 

Irma was here in person and packing wind gusts of 100 mph, and in the Florida keys the storm surge overtopped sections of the only road in and out.

As I write the hurricane continues to lash southern Florida. Trees bend to breaking point and beyond, and the emergency services will not turn out because the driving conditions are too dangerous.

Irma is not a very well behaved visitor.


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