Hurricane Irma continued to strengthen on Tuesday into Wednesday morning, and, as of this writing, has been classified as a Category 5 storm with sustained winds reaching 185 mph. Islands in the direct path of the hurricane are already beginning storm preparations and evacuations.
While there was some hope that Irma would turn north and miss the continental United States, that’s not going to happen. The only question at this point is exactly which parts of Florida are going to be hammered. While there’s some discussion of exactly how strong Irma is compared with previous hurricanes, you could drop the storm in a “Top 5” list already and not have to worry about whether it would fall below that point.
In fact, Irma is powerful enough that it’s already set off seismometers, while still located entirely over water.
Seismometer recordings from the past 48 hours on Guadeloupe show Cat. 5 #Hurricane #Irma driving closer toward the Lesser Antilles pic.twitter.com/9y3Nuv2Z9E
— Stephen Hicks (@seismo_steve) September 5, 2017
As JD Rudd with News 5 observes below, Irma is currently larger than the entire state of Ohio, with healthy chunks of Indiana and Pennsylvania sucked in for good measure. As someone who drives across Ohio on a semi-regular basis to visit family, I can confirm that Ohio is interminable-to-borderline-unending.
Hurricane #Irma now a category 5 and it’s a beast. It’s larger than the state of Ohio, if that helps put it in perspective. pic.twitter.com/JtoZNlONeE
— ⚡JD Rudd – News5 (@jdrudd) September 5, 2017
In fact, this image more-or-less captures much of my travel route. If you started in Buffalo and drove until west of Fort Wayne (which I do), you’d be driving a solid 400 miles. Granted, the trip would be vastly more exciting, provided watching wind-driven debris punch through your car like bullets is something you consider fun. Those who find the idea of involuntarily replacing their teeth with a piece of 2×4 unattractive should probably find something else to do.
There’s still a few forecast models showing that Irma could turn north and run up the eastern Atlantic coastline, but that’s increasingly unlikely. The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, has called up 7,000 National Guard troops. The Florida Keys are expected to be under a mandatory evacuation order on Wednesday, and all tolls are suspended throughout the state to help people flee to safer areas. Of course, with the hurricane’s track still uncertain, it’s not clear where those safer areas are. The only good news, if you can call it that, is that Irma isn’t expected to get stuck over Florida the way Harvey sat over the Texas coast last week.
If you live in the Caribbean, Florida, or anywhere along the projected storm track, stay safe. A Category 5 hurricane as strong as Irma is packing sustained wind speeds equivalent to those in an F3 tornado. It’s more than capable of delivering tornado-class damage to an entire city, as opposed to a relatively small area in the path of a funnel. Unless your current home had keywords like “reinforced concrete bunker,” in the ad listing, it’s probably best to get the heck out of its way. Category 5 storms are capable of leveling most buildings even without the risk of flying debris.
Top image: Hurricane Irma, as it became Category 5 Tuesday. Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project