While Texas is dealing with the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey after about 50 inches of rain and intense flooding descended upon the south, another hurricane is on the horizon to potentially reach the east or southern U.S. coast over the next few weeks. While it's still out in the eastern Atlantic for now, Hurricane Irma could become the second major hurricane this year.
The Washington Post notes that while forecasts more than a week out have an inability to be completely accurate, in the next 10 days Irma is predicted to reach a Category 3 or stronger. And because it’s so far out, it’s hard to tell where exactly, or if, it will make landfall. If it does, it could hit anywhere from the Carolinas to the Caribbean.
Irma became a tropical storm on Wednesday, and on Thursday afternoon, Irma strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane, according to AOL. Irma initially formed off of Africa’s coast this week. But as of Thursday, it was still 2,000 miles East of the Caribbean Sea, and may take a week to cross the Atlantic.
Weather Channel program manager and former National Hurricane Center director Rick Knabb told the Times-Picayune that he couldn’t predict whether Irma would hit land. “It is in fact too early to determine if Irma will affect land areas,” he said. “But we can’t rule out mainland impacts next week, and impacts to the Caribbean.”
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season extends until the end of November, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted an above normal season. In fact, NOAA predicted a 60 percent chance of 14 to 19 named storms from June to November. A storm gets its name when it reaches sustained winds of above 39 mph.
According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, a storm is considered a Category 2 hurricane (what Irma is currently) when it reaches sustained winds of 96 mph. A Category 2 can cause extensive damage to houses and shallow trees in the area. If Irma strengthens to a Category 3, which is the first rung of major hurricanes, it will be slightly less windy than Harvey with 111 to 129 mph winds and could inflict devastating damage to the area it hits.
Even though Irma is still far away, that doesn't mean there's nothing to be concerned about. With a prediction to become a Category 3 hurricane, Irma could do a great amount of damage should it hit land.
Given the destruction in Texas and heavy rains predicted in Louisiana, and the fact that we are in peak hurricane season, now is a good opportunity for the south and east coasts to prepare for a tropical storm. If you’re located on the coast, having an evacuation plan ahead of time could cut down on confusion and rushing to figure out plans in the case of a serious storm.