Understanding Hurricane Irma, your questions answered

Do you have a question about Hurricane Irma? We’re answering as many as we can. Leave yours in the comments, or ask us on Facebook or Twitter. Check out the Hurricane Irma guide for more information.

How does Hurricane Irma compare to Hurricane Matthew? Why is it being perceived as worse?

Submitted by Susan Cunningham

Hurricane Matthew was an intense and deadly storm, killing more than 500 people and causing more than $15 billion in damage. At its most intense, Matthew was a Category 5 with winds of 165 m.p.h. The storm made landfall in Haiti and Cuba as a Category 4, and then weakened as it curled along the Florida coast. Miami experienced some winds and rain, but was largely spared from the storm’s damage. When Matthew made landfall in South Carolina, it was as a Category 1, but the storm was still one of the most costly disasters of 2016.

Hurricane Irma is projected to be a much more powerful storm when it affects Miami and South Florida. It is already one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic, with winds over 180 m.p.h. The storm is so large that it will almost certainly cause storm surge and flooding. According to the latest predictions, Miami also will be on the side of Irma with stronger winds and rain, so what we experience will probably be worse than the mild effects we got from Matthew.

When will we start to feel effects?

Submitted by Dara Schoenwald

We should prepare for a major landfall on Sunday, but we’ll probably begin experiencing some wind and high surf as early as Thursday. Tropical storm force winds should arrive Friday.

Should we worry more about wind or flooding?

Submitted by Dara Schoenwald

It’s hard to say at this point, because the track is so uncertain. If Irma maintains its strength, it may be one of the most powerful storms we’ve experienced in the region. As Irma passes through the Carribbean, storm surge from the hurricane is expected to reach up to 20 feet and it is expected to dump up to 20 inches of rain, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Irma is expected to shift north sometime this weekend, and the current predictions show Miami in the path of the “dirty” side of the storm. Winds and storm surge on the right side of a hurricane are typically the strongest because the storm’s forward motion creates higher winds.

The lifecycle of the hurricane will also affect its strength. Strong hurricanes tend to undergo eyewall replacement cycles that greatly affect their intensity. Hurricane Andrew strengthened suddenly after an eyewall replacement cycle just before it made landfall here in 1992.

Depending on Irma’s course and how the storm evolves, we may get severe flooding and high winds, but we won’t know until the storm is closer. It’s best to prepare for both.

When will flights in and out of Miami stop?

Submitted by Alex Markow

So far, Miami International Airport is continuing to operate as normal. The airport will ground outgoing flights and stop receiving incoming flights once winds are steady at 55 mph or more. TBD when we will reach that point. The National Hurricane Center shared this prediction Wednesday afternoon.

Follow MIA’s Twitter account, @iflymia, is issuing regular updates on the status. Most domestic airlines, including United, Delta, and American, are issuing free rebookings

The airport parking garages are not available for anyone other than first responders and airport staff.

Is trash pickup still happening?

Submitted by @_diane_c_

Although curbside trash pickup is winding down, you can bring your trash and recycling to centers, still. They’ve extended the hours through Friday. The hours are now 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

However, “bulky waste pile scheduling” – aka trees, furniture, etc – has been suspended. You can’t schedule any new pickups, although the county is working to make sure the pickups already scheduled do.

Keep checking the Miami-Dade County Twitter account for updates.