Hurricane Irma made landfall early Wednesday morning in the northeast Caribbean, first touching down on the small island of Barbuda.
Irma is a Category 5 storm and packs winds of 185 miles per hour; it is the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history, and the state of Florida is in its path of destruction.
After making landfall, the National Hurricane Center said the eye of the storm moved and passed over St. Martin. The hurricane then headed toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where the electric company has warned residents that the power could be out for up to six months.
While its path is isn’t certain, one thing is clear: the state of Florida is going to experience widespread destruction, and the severity of it depends on the path Irma takes.
The hurricane is being directed by a high-pressure ridge, which is expected to meet with a low-pressure weather movement currently moving east across the U.S.; when the two weather movements collide, Hurricane Irma could be directed north, rather than directly toward and through Florida. This would also determine where the most powerful hurricane winds will land.
Hurricane winds can stretch up to 120 miles wide. Florida is a peninsula state and only 160 miles wide.
“We are going to get impacts from this hurricane. There is no doubt about that right now,” said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, according to the Miami Herald. “The only question is how bad will it be at a given location with the competing weather systems.”
Weather forecasters say that weather models agree over the next 72 hours, but then the models begin to disagree – and errors could range from 175 to 225 miles, which is a large spread.
Right now, the state of Florida is bunkering down.
Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency across the entire state, and he said President Donald Trump offered full resources from the federal government.
“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,” Scott said in a statement.
Hurricane supplies were flying off the shelves in local stores, according to reports.
President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday: “Watching Hurricane closely. My team, which has done, and is doing, such a good job in Texas, is already in Florida. No rest for the weary!”
As the storm continues to progress, the differences between hurricanes and tornadoes are being pointed out, as Florida has experienced both; the key differences are wind speeds, preparation times and path of destruction.