By Andy Rowell
After Superstorm Harvey comes Hurricane Irma, which surged into a dangerous Category Four storm Monday, with winds of up to 150 miles an hour.
The strengthening storm prompted emergency declarations in Florida and Puerto Rico.
Although there is still huge uncertainty of the Hurricane’s path, the National Hurricane Center has now said there is an “increasing chance” that Florida and the Florida Keys will see “some impacts from” Irma later this week.
Before that, the Caribbean will feel Irma’s full force, with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands expected to be in Irma’s firing line, before it passes over Cuba and the Bahamas and finally making landfall in Florida. It may then swing up the East Coast.
Monday, Florida Governor, Rick Scott, declared a state of emergency for every county in the state, warning that Irma was “life threatening.” Florida must be prepared, he said. The State of Emergency was to ensure that local governments had enough “time, resources and flexibility to get prepared for this dangerous storm.”
He added: “In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared.”
As residents of Florida stock up on essentials, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are forecast to see deteriorating conditions throughout today.
Ronald Jackson, executive director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, said: “We’re looking at Irma as a very significant event. I can’t recall a tropical cone developing that rapidly into a major hurricane prior to arriving in the central Caribbean.”
The director of Puerto Rico’s power company, Ricardo Ramos, predicted that Irma could leave some on the island without power for up to six months. Late Monday, the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard.
A category four hurricane is the same strength as Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Texas last month. Officials are warning that the storm could deposit as much as 25cm of rain, and generate waves of up to 7 meters.
But Irma could end up being worse than Harvey, although there is huge uncertainty surrounding this.
It is predicted that Irma will strengthen, potentially into a Category 5 Hurricane, as she passes over warmer waters, just as Harvey did. According to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. “Over the coming days, it’s going to get into that warmer water. That’s going to help the storm intensify.”
Unseasonably warm waters seem to be making for a damaging Hurricane season this year. As Grist noted “All signs point to a busy hurricane season, which extends until late November. Irma follows Gert and Harvey to become the ninth named storm in the Atlantic this year—a milestone we don’t typically reach until Sept. 30.”
The window to talk and educate people about climate change will shrink over time. Akshat Rathi adds on the Quartz website: “In the years after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the proportion of Americans concerned about climate change rose, then slumped again … The more Americans see global warming as a direct threat, the better the chances for the whole world of doing something about it.”