Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned residents Saturday afternoon to evacuate South Florida, because Hurricane Irma’s wind gusts and storm surge has the potential to kill within seconds.
Irma has already barreled its way through the Caribbean islands and parts of Cuba without stopping or even slowing down, Scott told reporters at a press conference. Anybody who can get out should get out, he added, because the “storm surge can rush in and it can kill you.”
The hurricane, which is widely considered one the largest and most powerful cells originating from the Atlantic, is on course to hit the western part of the Florida Sunday morning. Irma has fluctuated between Category 5 and 3 level hurricane strength, but it has maintained most of its form, despite rolling over several small islands.
Hurricanes generally require warm water, no land barriers, and specific pressure systems to maintain their integrity. The fact that Irma has sustained the bulk of its mass while rolling through the Caribbean islands and parts of Cuba is stark reminder of this particular storm’s capability.
Irma continued to clobber Cuba Saturday morning while sustaining winds gusts up to 125 mph, which is down significantly from highs of 185 miles per hour earlier this month. Forecasters expect the 90 degree temperatures in between Cuba and Florida to re-strengthen the hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said.
At least 20 inches of rain were predicted through Wednesday across the entire state of Florida. Irma’s mass dwarfs that of the entire state of Florida.
The storm has so far demolished nearly every thing in its path. The small nation of Barbuda, for instance, home to about 1,600 people, was almost completely destroyed. Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that 95 percent of all structures on the island were damaged or destroyed, leaving the island “barely habitable.”
“What I saw was heart-wrenching — I mean, absolutely devastating,” he told a local media outlet in Barbuda’s sister nation, Antigua, according to the New York Times.
Browne confirmed that 60 percent of the Barbuda’s residents were left homeless after Irma passed over the island as a Category 5 storm. The prime minister called Irma’s sustained 180 mph winds “unprecedented” for Antigua and Barbuda.
Hurricane Jose, lurking just behind Irma, has also intensified into a massive Category 4 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center reported Friday.
Jose is about 435 miles east-southeast of the Northern Leeward Islands and is toting 150 mph winds, the center said. It shows no signs of slowing down, and could plot roughly the exact same course as its older counterpart.
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