It’s been just over a week since Hurricane Harvey began to pull away from Texas, leaving in its path a scene of destruction, flooding and devastation that we have not witnessed since Katrina’s landfall in New Orleans back in 2005. On the heels of Harvey, however, is a storm which could cause even more damage, this time with wind, waves and storm surge.
Hurricane Irma is currently 180 miles east of Antigua, and is headed towards Florida by this weekend. It is currently the strongest hurricane ever recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico and Carribean, with maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, making it a Category 5 storm. Note that a Category 5 storm, the strongest possible categorization of a hurricane, is any storm that has winds over 155 miles per hour. If there was such a thing as a category 6 Hurricane, Irma would be bordering on such.
With that said, a Hurricanes like Irma can still weaken considerably prior to landfall, or get disturbed by a landmass on its way towards Florida. Cuba could weaken the storm, especially if it tracks over the mountains, but most models predict Irma to skirt the northern Cuban coast. While many models predict the hurricane to come onshore, or close to, the coast of Florida by late Sunday as a Category 4 Hurricane, some models are predicting it to be a strong category five with pressure readings lower than any other hurricane to strike the United States since such statistics have been kept in the late 1800’s.
The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 had the lowest central pressure on record at 892 millibars. Hurricane Andrew, which devastated the Miami area in 1992, had a pressure reading of 920 millibars. While some models like the HMON have predicted pressures reaching as low as 874 millibars, as the storm sits right off of Fort Lauderdale, other models, like the Euro, have pressures in the 940 millibar region as Irma approaches Naples, Florida from the West. Meanwhile the HWRF model shows a 924 millibar storm over the middle keys.
The size of Irma is so large that a wide swath of land will be directly impacted by the powerful eye wall, should it come ashore. As with all Hurricane forecasts, however, it is not a precise science, so the track and the strength of the storm could differ significantly over the next 5-6 days, prior to landfall. We urge everyone in the State of Florida, as well as the Southeast coast, to pay attention to the forecast path over the next several days.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this storm in the comments section below.