Hurricane Irma is still days away from hitting the U.S., but it’s already one for the record books — the Category 5 storm is currently tied for the second-strongest hurricane ever to come out of the Atlantic.
Irma’s winds are currently clocking in at around 185 mph, and it is not expected to weaken before making landfall — the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday the storm is actually in an environment that is “ideal for some additional intensification.”
Current projections have the storm heading over Puerto Rico and a number of Caribbean islands before making landfall sometime this weekend in the Florida Keys, turning north and barreling through the rest of the state. Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday for the entire state of Florida, mobilizing state-level emergency responses and asking President Donald Trump to declare a federal state of emergency, which would allow federal cash and resources to flow more quickly.
Meanwhile, Houston, which was hit by Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, earlier this month, faces a long and difficult recovery. The city sustained tens of billions of dollars in damage, and FEMA says it will be in Houston for the next “couple of years,” FEMA head Brock Long told reporters last week.
If Irma maintains its power, it will be stronger than both Harvey and Katrina, which was only a Category 3 when it made landfall on the Louisiana coast in 2005. It’s still too early to predict how much damage Irma will cause, but strong winds, flash flooding, and a storm surge of up to 18 feet are all expected. Governor Scott is encouraging Floridians to “prepare for the worst,” and residents of the Florida Keys must evacuate by Wednesday morning, according to a mandatory order.