Hurricane Harvey was a tragic nightmare that hit the Texas shores with force and then lingered for days, dumping truck-loads of rain on a city ill-equipped to handle it. Florida is next, and if predictions are accurate, Hurricane Irma is going to be far worse than Houston was, and worse than anyone has prepared for.
Already, Irma is setting records and being named the strongest storm the Atlantic Ocean has seen on record. Here is a short list of things meteorologists and experts at the Hurricane Center have already seen from Irma that should give everyone pause.
The wind was so strong when Irma passed over Barbuda that the monitoring equipment used to measure the wind was damaged and couldn’t report an accurate account of the wind speed. It tapped out at 151 mph.
The gusts for the Category 5 storm have reached 185 mph. That’s the equivalent of an EF4 tornado sitting on an area, nonstop for hours. To put that into perspective, the photo below is of the damage sustained by residents of Garland/Rowlett, Texas after an EF4 tornado blew through in 2015.
Damage in a residential area as a result of the EF4 Garland/Rowlett, Texas tornado. (Photo: Wikipedia)
To make matters worse, NOAA’s tools dropped into the hurricane to measure the storm and recorded 226mph gusts from its northeast eyewall.
— Alex Lamers (@AlexJLamers) September 5, 2017
Barbuda is a tiny island with barely over 1,000 residents. The top elevation on the island is 125 feet above sea level. Storm surges, however, predict waves will reach seven to 11 feet in the Northern Leeward Islands. That was worse for Turks and Caicos, which is expected to see 15- to 20-foot storm surges. As long as the surges are under 10 feet, Barbuda will be fine, but storm surges like those expected for Turks and Caicos would destroy the island.
“I am at a complete and utter loss for words looking at Irma’s appearance on satellite imagery,” tweeted Taylor Trogdon, of the National Hurricane Center.
I am at a complete and utter loss for words looking at Irma's appearance on satellite imagery. pic.twitter.com/B0ewFyvcSv
— Taylor Trogdon (@TTrogdon) September 5, 2017
CNN meteorologist Chad Myers reported that there were parts of Bermuda that saw vegetation ripped from the soil, the winds were so strong. The claim hasn’t been reported by other outlets and there are no photos or video yet that show the full extent of the damage.
Florida is as good as it gets at handling hurricanes, similar to states that are accustomed to navigating tornadoes or weathering earthquakes. Florida citizens know how to prepare for a storm. However, the strength of Irma seems to dwarf more recent hurricanes.
Already, the city of Miami is being forced to raise its roads to accommodate rising waters creeping into the city. A report from The Atlantic notes that the last major hurricane to hit Miami was in 1926 and 400 people were killed. Back then, the city boasted 100,000 residents, but today the population is more like 6 million.
Disaster planners have long been concerned about a natural event of this magnitude hitting a major U.S. city. If Irma turns toward Florida, this could be the horrific event they’ve feared.
“It won’t survive,” said former top emergency manager Craig Fugate in 2014.
During a meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders, Trump acted as if he had special insider information on the severity of Hurricane Irma. All he could manage to tell them was it is “not good.”
"(Irma) looks like it could be something that will be not good. Believe me, not good," Trump says in Oval. https://t.co/hdhl52fs8u
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) September 6, 2017
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