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September 8, 2017
A String of Natural Disasters Shatters the Caribbean Islands, Southern U.S. States
and Mexico

In the last couple of weeks, Texas, the Caribbean islands and Mexico have been hit by unprecedented disasters and residents of southern U.S. states, especially Florida, are bracing themselves as Hurricane Irma is expected to make direct landfall. 

With all these weather events happening in such close timeframe, it is hard to keep up with the news and understand how, if at all, your travels may be impacted. Here, we review the situation for each event and assess how it affects travelers.


Mexico Earthquake 

On September 7, just a few minutes short of midnight, a magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck off the southern coast of Mexico. The earthquake occurred off the coast of Chiapas but was felt all the way up to Mexico City, more than 600 miles away. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called it the biggest quake in recorded history. 

Shortly after the earthquake struck, a tsunami threat alert was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Waves of up to 3.3 feet above tide level have been observed. Although, several hours have now passed since the quake occurred, officials are still signaling a potential risk of higher waves for some coasts in Mexico, Guatemala Antarctica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Zealand, and Samoa. 

Since last night, dozens of aftershocks have been recorded, some as strong as magnitude 5.7. Additional aftershocks are likely to occur over the next days or even weeks. These aftershocks pose a serious threat for already-damaged structures and complicate search and rescue efforts by causing dangerous shifts in piles of rubble.

Mexico’s Secretary of Communication and Transportation confirmed on Twitter that all airports in the country were operating as usual after running safety checks during the night. If you are traveling to Mexico, plan additional time for air, rail, and road travel, as damage assessments and aftershocks may prompt disruptions. Communications disruptions are possible. Charge battery-powered devices in case of prolonged power outages. 

Hurricane Irma 

Meanwhile in the Caribbean, Hurricane Irma makes its way toward Florida after leaving catastrophic damages in its wake. Early on Friday, September 8, Irma was downgraded as a category-4 storm with winds reaching a maximum of 150 mph.

A State of Emergency has been declared for Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina and mandatory evacuation orders were issued for several counties in South Florida. While thousands of tourists and Floridians decided to take the roads, other opted to try to fly out.  Local authorities are urging both non-resident and residents to leave, stressing that all local hospitals would be closed by Saturday morning and that first responders would not respond if there are sustained winds of 45 mph or higher. 

As of September 6, flights were already being cancelled and air travel in and out of Florida airports was progressively being shut down. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport will suspend operations today, with the last flight departing at 7:45 p.m. The airport will remain closed until at least Sunday. The Orlando International Airport will shut down by 5 p.m. Saturday.  Miami International Airport remains open, but American Airlines, the airports’ largest carrier, will cancel all flights after 4 p.m. today.


Hurricanes Jose

Just as Irma takes aim on Florida, Hurricane Jose has reached major hurricane status and was just upgraded to a category-4 storm. The storm is moving east of the Leeward Islands and is forecast to move northwest in the coming days. A hurricane watch is in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy – islands that were all just devastated by Hurricane Irma.

Airports on these islands have been significantly damaged, as most of the rest of the islands’ infrastructure. Rescue and relief teams have been sent and are currently working with local authorities to manage this humanitarian crisis. 

Many travel companies, airlines and cruise ships have cancelled or postponed many trips over the last week. Travelers should contact their travel agent, airline carrier or cruise company to inquire about the status of their trip and their reimbursement/change policies. 


Hurricane Katia

Hurricane Katia, building up over the Gulf of Mexico, has strengthened to a Category 2 storm. The hurricane is expected to be almost a Category 3 storm when it makes landfall on the eastern shore of Mexico early Saturday.

Expect dangerous water levels and swells with waves of up to 7 feet, high winds, and up to 15 inches of rain with isolated areas possibly getting 25 inches. If you are traveling to the area, check your flight status prior to leaving and call your airline to confirm flight status. 

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The content of this edition of AssistAlert is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace further investigation or personal observations. If you are planning travel, or are traveling in or proximate to the locations identified in this newsletter, you are encouraged to contact SecurAssist for additional information.

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