This year’s hurricane season is turning out to be one of the most destructive and costly in recent years, and the worst may be yet to come.
Meteorologists have been keeping a close eye on Hurricane Irma, and have now declared the storm is a Category 5 hurricane, with winds of 175 mph, according to USA Today. This makes Hurricane Irma the strongest in the Atlantic since 2007’s Hurricane Felix.
The northern Caribbean will be dealing with this massive storm for the next few days, creating very dangerous conditions. As of Tuesday morning, the hurricane was only 270 miles to the east of Antigua moving in at 14 mph, but its pace may change.
The US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will likely be severely affected. The National Hurricane Center’s public advisory calls the storm “potentially catastrophic” and warns everyone in these areas that their “preparations should be rushed to completion.”
It is currently uncertain which area of the continental United States the hurricane may hit. Meteorologists are not yet sure whether the hurricane will hit the Gulf Coast or East Coast.
There is an increasing likelihood that the hurricane will move onto Florida after the Caribbean, both the Peninsula and the Keys. As a result, the state’s governor, Rick Scott, has declared a state of emergency for all 67 counties in Florida.
He has paired this declaration with an executive order, allowing local governments the flexibility to prepare for this storm. This has also freed up resources for the local level.
There is also the possibility the storm could hit Georgia, North and South Carolina, or even move towards the eastern Gulf of Mexico. As new information comes in, experts will continue to track and update their models to determine which locations are most likely impacted.
The Weather Channel has warned, “While the track is still uncertain, the time to prepare is now.”
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When a hurricane of this size and speed touches land, it wreaks havoc on infrastructure. AccuWeather warns, “a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse.”
Expect to see power outages as a result of this hurricane, lasting from weeks to months. The weather center predicts that those in rural areas will be stranded by fallen power poles and trees.
There is still time to prepare for the hurricane. Water is already sold out in one Vero Beach Walmart. Other retailers have reported their customers are purchasing other staple and emergency goods in high quantities.
American Airlines was forced to cancel flights to St. Kitts and St. Maarten for both Tuesday and Wednesday. The airline is compensating with extra flights out of those areas to Miami.
The airline seeks to help those trying to evacuate before Hurricane Irma touches down. It has even waived change fees for anyone who may be affected, so long as they travel Tuesday through Friday.
Weather experts have released several models showing the potential path of the storm. Everyone who is in potentially affected areas should be preparing now. Weather changes can be quick and unpredictable, so not just those in the Caribbean and Florida should be concerned.
Those in the potentially afflicted areas need support and prayers over the next few days as the hurricane makes it way to land.