Will Hurricane Irma Be As Bad As Andrew? Florida's Last Category 5 Storm Was In 1992
Over the next several days, Hurricane Irma is expected to reach the U.S. mainland, although where precisely it'll make landfall is not yet clear. Currently classified as a Category 5 hurricane, many meteorologists are have voiced dire warnings about just how powerful and destructive it could be. But for residents of Florida, there's a very particular frame of reference that's setting off alarms ― namely, will Hurricane Irma be as bad as Andrew was back in 1992?
The answer, according to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, looks like a yes. Scott, the Republican governor of the Sunshine State with an iffy outlook on climate change, raised the specter of Andrew in a press conference on Wednesday. He warned that this year's storm is "bigger, faster, and stronger" than the infamous 1992 hurricane, which left more than 60 people dead:
We are being very aggressive in our preparation for this storm, and every Floridian should take this seriously and be aggressive to protect their family. ... Do not ignore evacuation orders. Remember: We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life.
It's no surprise that Scott is taking this situation so seriously, given the catastrophic destruction the country witnessed just weeks ago when Hurricane Harvey struck the greater Houston area. That storm brought a record-breaking amount of rainfall, which left huge swaths of the upper and middle Texas coast utterly ruined by flooding.
By way of comparison, Florida's highest-ever level of rainfall over a 24-hour period is less than one-fourth what Harvey brought to Houston, and Irma is, according to the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, more powerful than Harvey was. Irma is, in fact, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded. Scott has already declared a state of emergency for every one of Florida's 67 counties, in anticipation of the damage that could be done.
While it's too early to say whether Scott's warnings will come true, there's no denying that Irma is the only parallel to Andrew since the latter hit the state in late August of 1992. Like Irma, Andrew was a Category 5 hurricane, meaning it had wind speeds in excess of 156 mph. Andrew boast wind speeds of 175 mph, while Irma (so far, at least) has reached wind speeds of more than 180 mph.
At those speeds, trees can be uprooted and houses can be blown apart. In simple terms, it's a harrowing idea ― there is no such thing as a Category 6 hurricane, which kind of tells the whole story. In short, if you live in or around Florida, it's incredibly important to stay up-to-date on exactly how Irma is making it's way towards the state, and follow evacuation orders if it comes to that.