Following a few weeks after Harvey, the world now watches Hurricane Irma as it approaches the southeastern shores of the United States. The historic storm has sustained Category 5 hurricane conditions for more than a day as it barrels through the Caribbean on a path towards Florida and the U.S.’s southeast region, The Washington Post reports.
Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, Irma’s eye passed directly over the islands of Barbuda and Saint Martin. Tied for the second-strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, Irma is now the strongest hurricane recorded in that specific region. A storm of monstrous proportions, Irma is “tied with the 1935 Florida Keys hurricane as the strongest Atlantic storm to strike land,” the Post reports.
— CNN Weather Center (@CNNweather) September 6, 2017
Barbuda sustained a direct hit by the storm. Before its weather station was knocked offline, wind gusts clocked in at 155 mph. The storm surge reached at least 8 feet.
As of 2 p.m. EST, the storm’s eye moved over Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. It’s outer bands began to reach the shores of northeast Puerto Rico. Barreling west-northwestward on its path just northeast of St. Thomas, wind gusts on St. Thomas clocked in at 87 mph. Wind gusts on Buck Island clocked in at 131 mph. According to the Post, “the National Weather Service issued an extreme wind warning for destructive wind gusts over 115 miles per hour for Saint John and Saint Thomas.”
As the storm headed west this afternoon, hurricane warnings were issued for several islands in the Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos, Haiti and the southeastern Bahamas. Cuba and the rest of the Bahamas are under a hurricane watch.
The National Hurricane Center has warned that Hurricane Irma is a “life-threatening storm” capable of “catastrophic damage.” The center urges preparations to begin in areas along the storm’s path immediately.
— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) September 6, 2017
Irma’s exact path is through the U.S. is still unknown. AccuWeather meteorologists warn the storm is likely to cause significant damage in the Southeast, even “potentially bringing life-threatening impacts.” Evan Myers, an AccuWeather expert senior meteorologist and chief operating officer, sustains that Irma has potential to devastate the East Coast of the United States.
“It also had the potential to significantly strain FEMA and other governmental resources occurring so quickly on the heels of Harvey,” Myers explained.
As most meteorologists seem to agree with the storm’s east coast progression, Myers warns that residents should be vigilant.
“Because Irma is likely to move up along the east coast of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, people from the Florida Keys all the way to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, should prepare to be ready to evacuate coastal areas, starting with South Florida now,” Myers told AccuWeather. He urges residents and authorities to take this storm seriously and begin preparations for impact.
N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper declares state of emergency effective 8 a.m. tomorrow ahead of Hurricane Irma https://t.co/MqIUt02ywN
— NPR (@NPR) September 6, 2017
Tuesday, President Trump declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico, Florida, and the U.S. Virgin Islands in response to Irma’s projected path.
According to the Times, Florida has also been quick to take action, announcing plans for evacuations and other hurricane preparations along the east coast of Florida. Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, activated the National Guard and suspended highway tolls. Scott also declared a state of emergency in Florida and was assured of the full support of the government by the president.
The Sun Sentinel released an article detailing precise details of hurricane preparations in Florida counties near Miami. Florida’s Miami-Dade County will close schools Thursday and Friday; all county offices will also be closed. Evacuations in Miami-Dade were prepared to begin Wednesday morning.
Nearby Monroe County issued a mandatory evacuation of all residents to start at 7 p.m. EST Wednesday. Tourist evacuations were in effect earlier, at 7 a.m.
Although neighboring Broward County has not yet ordered any evacuations, schools will be closed on Thursday and Friday. Evacuation shelters are quickly being stocked and prepared for both humans and animals. Shelters are expected to open starting Thursday.
— Isaiahs ♕ (@___Isaiahs) September 6, 2017
Irma’s “peak intensity” reached 185 mph, ranking the hurricane among the strongest in recorded history, the Post reports. It exceeds other devastating storms such as Katrina, Andrew and Camille. Although tied for second-place in intensity with Hurricanes Wilma (2005), Gilbert (1998) and Florida Keys (1935), Irma surpassed all recorded storms in at least one area. According to the Post, Irma “has maintained maximum wind speeds of at least 180 mph longer than any other storm on record in the Atlantic.”
Irma follows in the wake of catastrophic flooding in Texas’ Gulf Coast region due to Hurricane Harvey. The World Meteorological Organization is likely to retire the two names, Harvey and Irma, after this season. The last time in recorded history that the U.S. was hit by more than one Category 4+ hurricane in a single season was more than a century ago, in 1915.