Hurricane Irma: All you want to know about the megastorm approaching US
Hurricane Irma is being called one of the most dangerous mega storms to hit the Atlantic.Updated: Sep 07, 2017 12:34 IST
After slamming the Caribbean with record-breaking winds early Wednesday, Hurricane Irma now bears down on the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Florida in the US. Frantic preparations and evacuations preceded Irma’s imminent arrival.
Here’s a primer on one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded:
How strong is Hurricane Irma?
Sustained winds of 185 mph on Tuesday made Irma one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the Atlantic, but even by Thursday morning, the hurricane remained a Category 5 storm with winds of 180mph (290kmph). Hurricanes are measured on the Saffir-Simpson scale, spanning categories 1 to 5, and Irma’s winds were recorded to be 28km past the Category 5 threshold.
This has led some armchair meteorologists to suggest that Irma is a Category 6 hurricane -- it isn’t, since there isn’t a Category 6 at all.
What does Category 5 signify?
Storms with wind speeds of at least 119kmph (74 miles per hour) are classified as hurricanes. According to the Saffir-Simpson scale, these are the 5 categories of hurricanes:
Category 1: 119 to 153 km/h (74 to 95 mph)
Category 2: 154 to 177 km/h (96 to 110 mph)
Category 3: 178 to 208 km/h (111 to 129 mph)
Category 4: 209 to 251 km/h (130 to 156 mph)
Category 5: 252 km/h or higher (157 mph or higher)
Why is it called Irma?
All Atlantic storms are named, since names are easier for people to remember and spot in warnings and advisories than latitude-longitude coordinates or technical terms.
Names are chosen from an alphabetical list maintained by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). The lists are rotated every six years, but if a Hurricane leaves behind catastrophic destruction, the name is struck off the list to not hurt sensitivities. Names like Katrina or Sandy have been retired because of this reason. Read more about the naming of tropical storms here.
The eye of Hurricane Irma is clearly visible from the space station as it orbited over the Category 5 storm on Sept. 5, 2017. pic.twitter.com/RpMzYw8NL2— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) September 6, 2017
How destructive is Hurricane Irma?
At least four people were reported killed on four different Caribbean islands by Irma. The dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda bore the brunt of the hurricane’s fury. The northernmost island, Barbuda, home to roughly 1,800 people, was “totally demolished,” with 90% of all dwellings there levelled, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.
All across the French Caribbean, Irma caused torn off rooftops and knocked out all electricity on the French islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy. France requisitioned for planes and sent in emergency food and water rations. In Puerto Rico, 965,000 people were left without power and nearly 50,000 without water, reports the Guardian.
America’s National Hurricane Center said Irma “will bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards to portions of the northeastern Leeward Islands tonight and tomorrow.”
On Tuesday, as forecasts grew ominous, US President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico, Florida and the US Virgin Islands.
What areas fall in Hurricane Irma’s path?
The tropical storm slammed into the Caribbean on Tuesday, and is forecasted to make its way to a chain of small islands along a path toward the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba before aiming straight for South Florida. It has already hit Puerto Rico.
How are cities in Irma’s path preparing for the hurricane?
Travel advisories have been issued for tourists and others planning to visit the affected areas.
BBC reports that people have been stocking up on tinned food, fresh water and fuel in Cuba’s capital Havana, but there were no signs of frenzied shopping.
In the United States, Florida Keys on Wednesday morning ordered the first mandatory of tourists and visitors, reports The Washington Post. The county’s 80,000 residents were asked to evacuate beginning Wednesday evening. Residents and shops stood in queues to buy plywood to board up windows and doors as extra protection against the winds. Highways were packed as people in South Florida streamed north, and all flights were sold out.