Hurricane Irma, one of the fiercest Atlantic storms in a century, and its line of destruction, explained

Palm trees sway in the wind prior to the arrival of the Hurricane Irma in Caibarien, Cuba. (Source: Reuters) Related News

Hurricane Irma is one of the fiercest Atlantic storms in a century that’s currently making its way towards South Florida in the United States after causing widespread damage in the Caribbean islands.

The hurricane made its landfall in Cuba with wind speeds of 160 mph late on Friday as a Category 5 storm. According to the National Hurricane Center, Category 5 is the most powerful designation for a storm. Irma is also the first storm ever to sustain winds of 185 miles per hour for longer than 24 hours in the open Atlantic Ocean.

The hurricane is expected to hit US state of Florida on Sunday morning causing fear in the fourth most-populated US state. The large-scale destruction caused by Irma in the eastern Caribbean prompted a historic evacuation of Florida residents. More than 6 million people in Florida and Georgia were warned to leave their homes.

“We are running out of time. If you are in an evacuation zone, you need to go now. This is a catastrophic storm like our state has never seen,” Governor Rick Scott told reporters according to Reuters. The destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey two weeks ago in Texas and Louisiana served as a reminder of what lay ahead if measures were not taken to prepare for Irma.

While the United States is not a stranger to storms and hurricanes, it has been hit by only three Category 5 storms since 1851. What is more worrying, however, is that Hurricane Irma is far larger than the last one in 1992, Hurricane Andrew, as per the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

First, in Barbuda

Packing winds of up to 185 miles an hour, Irma first made landfall at Barbuda early Wednesday and destroyed 90 per cent of the buildings leaving at least 50 per cent of the population homeless. “Barbuda right now is literally a rubble,” PM Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda was quoted as saying by CNN.

A man surveys the wreckage on his property after the passing of Hurricane Irma, in St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda, Wednesday. (Source: AP Photo)

St Martin wrecked

The destruction was more severe across the Caribbean where the storm left at least 20 dead. On the night of September 7, the storm made landfall on St. Martin, a tiny island of 74,000 people, popular with European tourists, reported The Atlantic. Daniel Gibbs, the president of the French territory of the island of Saint Martin, said 95 percent of his country had been obliterated. “There are shipwrecks everywhere, destroyed houses everywhere, torn-off roofs everywhere,” he told Radio Caraïbes International, as translated by The New York Times. “It’s just unbelievable. It’s indescribable.”

View of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Sint Maarten Dutch part of Saint Martin island in the Caribbean (Source: Reuters)

Then the British Virgin Islands

On the British Virgin Islands, four people were reported dead after Irma struck the island destroying the National Emergency Operations Centre. Governor Gus Jaspert has declared a state of emergency. According to reports, roads have been blocked and communication is limited. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency added that despite the control tower being “compromised”, the airport was operational, reported The Guardian.

Puerto Rico without power

Even though Puerto Rico did not come across a direct encounter with Irma’s center, close to 60 percent of its households were left without power on Friday. Almost 50,000 people are without water on the island. The Guardian reported that at least three people have been confirmed dead and rescuers are looking for missing people. Waves as high as 9 metres were also reported, as per The Guardian. Other places affected by Hurricane Irma are Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks and Caicos and Bahamas.

Lamar Butler, left, and his wife Rosa settle in with their children at the Twin Lakes Elementary School’s storm shelter in preparation for Hurricane Irma in Jacksonville, Florida. The family evacuated from West Palm Beach. (Source: The Florida Times-Union via AP)

Landfall at Cuba

Now that Irma has made its landfall in Cuba, metereologists in Miami’s National Hurricane Center are tracking the storm to gauge where in Florida would it strike first. “The precise moment of this turn is still uncertain, and that is why the National Hurricane Center emphasizes that nobody should focus on the exact track of the center,” it said in a statement.

If Irma moves path proceeds towards east again, Miami might be under danger. Since more than four-fifths of Miami-Dade County is 10 or fewer feet above sea level, almost the entire county would flood if hit by a Category 5 storm directly, reported The Atlantic.

Two weeks ago, another storm- Hurricane Harvey killed at least 70 people in the United States. The Category 4 hurricane with high winds and a destructive storm flooded several areas in Texas and Louisiana. More than a million people were affected by it.

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