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Hurricane Specialists Caught In Irma's Path


The National Hurricane Center in Miami has been tracking the course of Hurricane Irma over this week, of course. Mark DeMaria is acting deputy director of the center and is one of the hurricane specialists who was riding out the storm in his office. Mr. DeMaria, thanks so much for being with us.

MARK DEMARIA: You're welcome.

SIMON: So I gather, near as you can tell, it's taken a turn towards the Gulf Coast?

DEMARIA: Yes. It looks like it's finally taking that long-awaited right-hand turn as we speak.

SIMON: And where will that bring it to, and what areas are supposed to be most deeply affected?

DEMARIA: Our best estimate it looks like it's going to cross the Keys later today and into tomorrow and then move up southwest Florida over the day tomorrow.

SIMON: OK. And what cities and what areas specifically are going to be affected?

DEMARIA: Well, it's a wide hurricane. So we expect impacts on both the east coast and the west coast. But the major impacts are going to be in the Florida Keys, particularly the lower Keys - then into the Naples area and then up the coast more into the Fort Myers area and into - early in next week into the Tampa area.

SIMON: What do you see over the next 24 hours?

DEMARIA: We see that it'll make this final turn. And we'll really be able to zero in on where that core is going to go. There's still a little bit of uncertainty, but we're looking most likely that the biggest impact's along southwest Florida.

SIMON: What are your biggest concerns? Mr. DeMaria. We have, of course, this whole constellation of effects between the winds and the storm surge and the flooding.

DEMARIA: Right now the biggest concern is going to be the storm surge flooding in southwest Florida. That area's especially prone to storm surge. And there's only about a day left before that area is going to be impacted. In the shorter term, in the Florida Keys - that's something that's going to be occurring tonight and into tomorrow. And that'll be both a surge and a wind event. We're expecting this to re-intensify after it merges off the coast of Cuba. And it's already a strong, Category 3 hurricane.

SIMON: Yeah. So you're working the hurricane season. And I'm just guessing your family must be nearby.

DEMARIA: Yes. My family lives about 20 miles north in just west of Fort Lauderdale.

SIMON: What's that like, may I ask?

DEMARIA: Oh, there's a bit of a balancing act between preparing my own house, getting them ready and also doing my job at the Hurricane Center.

SIMON: And there's another hurricane in the pipeline, I gather, Mr. DeMaria.

DEMARIA: There is a Hurricane Jose. But, fortunately, it looks like that's going to move out to sea, at least in the next 5 to 7 days.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, we want to thank you and your colleagues for all the important work that you're being done - that you've done for us. And just to recap, it looks like it's now headed for the west coast of Florida. But there are going to be effects on both coasts of Florida.

DEMARIA: Yes, that's correct.

SIMON: All right. Mark DeMaria is acting deputy director of the National Hurricane Center. Thank you so much for being with us, sir.

DEMARIA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.