Hurricane Irma Path Updates Suggest It Could Be The Biggest Storm To Hit The U.S. In Years
Texas is still reeling from devastating flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, so growing apprehension about an even bigger storm making its way towards the U.S. east coast is understandable. According to the latest updates on Hurricane Irma's path, if it stays on course, both in terms of its size and its path, it will be the biggest hurricane to hit the United States in years, and the damage could be catastrophic.
Meteorologists and weather analysts will have a clearer picture of Irma's size and path as the week goes on. Landfall in the United States is not expected until Saturday or Sunday, so there is potentially time for Irma to veer to the north or east, and possibly avoid hitting the East Coast altogether. However, that course is increasingly unlikely, according to the latest projections from most news outlets.
Right now, Irma is gathering strength in the Carribbean, and is projected to hit the Leeward Islands, the Domincan Republican, Puerto Rico, and Cuba before heading toward the continental United States. If nothing changes between then and now, Irma will be the biggest hurricane Florida has seen since 1992.
Below are all the most recent updates on Hurricane Irma's path, and what that means for those living in it.
1. Irma has been upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane.
As of Tuesday morning, Hurricane Irma had moved from a Category 4 to a Category 5 storm. That means its wind speeds exceed 155 mph. And when wind gets that strong, there's very little that can stand up to it.
2. The latest projections put Irma on a "more direct" path to Florida.
As the embedded graph makes clear, it looks very likely that Irma will impact south Florida, as the odds of the hurricane moving back out into the ocean appear to have shrunk.
3. A state of emergency has been declared in Florida.
Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Monday, including all 67 of Florida's counties. As the tweet in update #1 above from JD Rudd points out, this hurricane is the size of Ohio, so it could absolutely impact all of Florida with rain, winds, storm surge, and flooding.
4. Sustained winds of 175 mph have already been recorded.
Hurricane categories are determined by wind speed. In order to be designated a Category 5, wind speeds must exceed 155 miles per hour. Hurricane Irma has already well surpassed that, with wind speeds measured at 175 mph.
5. Some flights through the Caribbean have been canceled.
American Airlines announced it would allow passengers travelling through certain Carribbean islands to rebook those flights free of charge. Destinations included Anguilla, Antigua, British Virgin Islands, San Juan, St. Croix, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas Island. All are expected to be impacted by Hurricane Irma over the next week.
6. Hurricane Irma is the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic since 2007.
In 2007, Hurricane Felix reached Category 5 status. It was the last Atlantic hurricane to do so, and though it hit Nicaragua and Honduras with winds initially measured at 160 miles per hour, Felix quickly weakened, leaving far less wreckage in its wake than many had feared.
7. Irma could go on to make landfall in Georgia, South Carolina, and/or North Carolina.
Though it's still too early to know, it is possible that Hurricane Irma will move north from Florida and impact Georgia, South Carolina, and/or North Carolina as well.
8. Alternatively, Irma could slide to the west and continue into the Gulf of Mexico.
If Irma stays on a southern-leaning path, it could end up in the Gulf of Mexico, making it more of a threat to the Florida panhandle and other Gulf Coast states.
9. Caribbean islands are in the most immediate danger.
It can be all too easy to focus exclusively on Hurricane Irma's path towards the continental United States. However, it is all but guaranteed that several Caribbean islands will be hit hard by a Category 5 hurricane, and the potential for catastrophic damage is real. Here is how Chad Myers, a meteorologist at CNN, put it: "Anguilla, all the way toward (Antigua and) Barbuda, all the way up even toward the British Virgin Islands (are) in grave danger of an eye wall hit at (at least) 150 mph -- that devastates the island, no matter what island it is."
Hurricane Irma may be on a path toward the United States, but even if it veers away from the East Coast, it will undoubtedly wreak havoc in the Caribbean. All eyes are on deck for this monstrous storm.