Hurricane Irma Has Miami in Its Crosshairs: Here’s What’s at Stake

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Hurricane Irma is leaving its destructive calling card in the Caribbean, leaving billions of dollars worth of damage in its wake, and the storm could hit Miami this weekend.

As the Category 4 hurricane plows through the Caribbean and takes aim at Florida, it’s worth looking at what is at stake for the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area, which appears to be directly in the path of the monster storm.

The metro area has a population of 6,012,331 and is ranked eighth in the United States in terms of population, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach had per-capita personal income of $49,819, ranking it 61st in the United States.

In 2015, the latest year available, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach had total personal income of $299.5 million, ranking it 10th in the United States.

In terms of unemployment, the Miami area has a jobless rate of 4.5%, just above the U.S. average, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that was last updated on August 2. Broward County was 4%, Palm Beach County 4.3% and Miami-Dade County 4.9%.

The average weekly wage for the Miami area through the fourth quarter of last year was $1,026, compared with the U.S. average of $1,067. Palm Beach was $1,055, Miami-Dade $1,029 and Broward $1,029.

By sectors, the BLS looked at 11 areas, and all but two showed an increase in jobs from June 2016 to June of this year. By percentage increase, the two biggest sectors were construction and education and health services, which each rose 5%. Other sectors where there were noteworthy gains were professional and business services (4.6%) and leisure and hospitality (4.3%).

Trade, transportation and utilities employed the most workers, with 599,700, and professional and business services was second, employing 436,800. Total nonfarm employment in the Miami area was 2,626,000.

In terms of hourly wages, accountants and auditors topped the list in the Miami area, earning $34.15. Registered nurses were second at $32.69. Cooks and fast-food employees were at the bottom of the 11-occupation list, earning $10.56 an hour.

Florida has more homes at risk for storm surge, 2.8 million, than any other state, according to information from property data provider CoreLogic.

Florida has six of the top 10 metropolitan areas with the most at-risk homes. The Miami metropolitan area, which again includes Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, has the most homes at risk of any metro area, totaling almost 785,000 with a reconstruction cost value of $143 billion, according to CoreLogic.

Because Florida has been the frequent target of hurricanes in the past, its geography has become familiar to many Americans. Most of Florida’s land area is on a large peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Because the state is surrounded by water, much of it is low-lying and flat. Its highest point, Britton Hill, is only 345 feet above sea level. This makes it the lowest high point of any state. Northern Florida has a more varied topography with gently rolling hills but it, too, has relatively low elevations.

Irma was tracking between southeastern Cuba and the Turks and Caicos Islands early Friday morning, and is expected to move westward toward central Cuba and the Bahamas.

Irma was downgraded to an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm on Friday, with winds reaching a sustained maximum of 155 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said. Earlier this week, the hurricane’s peak winds reached sustained maximums of 180 mph.

At least 10 people were killed as Irma ran roughshod over smaller Caribbean islands such as Barbuda and St. Martin/St. Maarten.

The hurricane center issued hurricane and storm surge warnings for south Florida on Thursday night. Mandatory evacuations have been issued for many counties in south Florida.

The hurricane center said the storm could bring five to 10 feet of water above ground on Florida’s coast.