It's been less than two weeks since Hurricane Harvey devasted much of south Texas. And it now looks increasingly likely that Florida will be the next state hit by hurricane season. With Hurricane Irma now designated as a Category 5 storm, its path is being followed with heightened scrutiny. And though there is a small chance that Irma's path could change, it is almost certain that the hurricane will make landfall somewhere in Florida.
According to Tom Sater, a meteorolgist at CNN, " If it turns sooner rather than later, we could maybe see the system slide by the East Coast into the ocean, but that window is shutting quickly. It definitely looks like we will be impacted by a major hurricane that is a Category 3, 4 or 5."
Before Irma arrives in Florida, its path is set to cross the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and the Bahamas. Meteorolgists now predict Irma will then veer north, setting it on a direct path to Florida.
Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for all of Florida's 67 counties. Residents of the Sunshine State have several days to prepare, as Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall sometime over the weekend.
Florida has not seen a major hurricane since 2004, when Hurricane Charley swept through parts of the state's central east coast. Designated a Category 4 hurricane, Charley left an estimated $14.5 billion of damage in its wake, though many were relieved densely populated areas such as Tampa Bay escaped the worst of the storm. The human and monetary cost could have been much higher.
Now that Hurricane Irma has been upgraded to a Category 5, the damage could be that much more extensive to Florida. While winds of 131 - 155 miles per hour define a Category 4 hurricane, that wind speed jumps from 156 miles per hour all the way up to 185 miles per hour and beyond in a Category 5 hurricane. Hurricane Patricia crashed into Mexico with recorded wind speeds of 190 miles per hour.
For a quick and informative explanation of the different ways each category impact a house, the Weather Channel put together a helpful (and impressive) video simulating the effects.
While Irma could still theoretically change course, if it makes landfall in Florida as a Category 5 storm, the impact would be severe. Winds at that speed will take out almost all trees, all mobile homes, much of frame homes, and can even decimate larger structures, such as shopping centers. There will almost certainly be major power outages and problems guaranteeing a safe water supply. Often, areas hit by a Category 5 storm are simply "uninhabitable" for weeks or months afterwards.