All eyes are on the skies this week as another monster hurricane approaches the United States from the Atlantic. Texas has only just begun the recovery process from Hurricane Harvey, and as Irma brews in the Atlantic, there's a collective national fear that this storm could cause more fatalities, destruction, and economic turmoil. There's no reason to believe yet that Hurricane Irma will be as bad as Harvey, so don't get too stressed about the far off storm.
Right now, Irma is way too young to offer a reliable indication of strength or direction. According to the National Weather Service, the storm system is a few thousand miles off the coast of Florida, and the latest forecast suggests that it may be headed towards the East Coast on Thursday morning. However, it could also change paths at any time, or just fizzle out before reaching the U.S. mainland.
If Irma does ultimately hit the U.S., the damage done by the hurricane will depend in large part on where it makes landfall. The Houston area is particularly prone to flooding due to its low elevation and the region's clay-based soil, according to ABC News, and the longstanding floodwaters have been the cause of the majority of the damage from Harvey thus far. If Irma hits an area that provides better drainage, there could be significantly less damage, even if the storms are the same strength.
That being said, Irma is already a very strong hurricane, which is unusual for a storm that's still so far out in the Atlantic. Tropical depressions typically don't start to strengthen into hurricanes until they reach the warmer waters of the Caribbean, but Irma's been wavering between Category 2 and Category 3 strength since Friday. That's obviously concerning because it indicates that the hurricane could be just as strong as, if not stronger than, Harvey. However, once again, there's just no way to know whether it will make landfall in the U.S. at all.
Hurricanes are flaky af, so there's no way to meaningfully speculate on the potential damages that Irma may or may not cause. The only thing worth doing in advance of Irma's theoretical landfall is making sure you're prepared (if you live in a coastal area). Use this handy hurricane preparedness checklist to make sure that you and your loved ones are ready to ride out the storm if it heads your way.