Fresh off the back of the catastrophic Hurricane Harvey, the US is preparing for a much more dangerous storm — Hurricane Irma. With wind speeds of 300 km per hour (185 mph), Irma now ranks as the most powerful hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the second strongest in the Atlantic basin, including the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, supporting Hurricane Allen in 1980 that struck on the latter two with winds of 305 km/h (190 mph). The storm has already made landfall on many islands including Barbuda, where people were advised to find urgent safety. The category 5 hurricane is forecast to make landfall in Florida over the weekend, where locals have already been advised to evacuate. It will stay at least a category 4 storm during the next few days, but the threat it poses can’t be overstated.
“The price you may pay for not evacuating is the life or serious bodily injury,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said, according to the Associated Press.
Though its pass-through Florida isn’t certain, the majority of the state is expected to get hurricane-force winds, intense rain, and storm surges. Irma can also reach the countries of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
If Irma does hit Florida as a category 4 or even higher, this will be the first time two such strong storms have struck the US in exactly the same year after Hurricane Harvey.
Irma is now over water that’s 1°C (1.8°F) warmer than usual.
Another storm supporting Irma, Tropical Storm Jose, is forecast to develop into a category 2 hurricane in the coming days. It is not expected to make landfall in America, but it might brush the north-eastern Caribbean islands.
Irma is expected to fall about 45 centimeters (18 inches) of rain over several regions, and trigger waves as large as 3.3 meters (11 feet).
Residents of Puerto Rico may be without power for months following the storm. President Trump has announced a crisis there, which hasn’t seen such a strong storm since Hurricane San Felipe in 1928, together with the US Virgin Islands and Florida.
“The decisions that we make in the next few hours can make the difference between life and death,” stated Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosella. “This is a very dangerous storm.”
— NASA SPoRT (@NASA_SPoRT) September 6, 2017