Hurricane Irma has ranged in strength from a category 4 to a very intense category 5. When it passed over the island of Barbuda, around 90% of the homes were damaged or destroyed, leaving about 60% of the entire population homeless. It’s being described as a lawnmower from the sky, mowing down everything it passes over, much like a lawnmower does.
Currently, Irma has weakened to a category 4 hurricane as it moves over northern Cuba, but may strengthen back up to a category 5 before moving north to Florida. Earlier tracking led weather forecasters to predict Irma would impact Florida right around Miami but currently, the track seems to be more westward possibly making landfall on the western or Gulf side of Florida.
Earlier this week, Brock Long, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sent a surprise package to meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It contained enough water bottles and enough MREs (meals-ready-to-eat) to last 10 days.
“Being an ex-marine, I can tell you, those MREs will taste pretty good soon,” said Dennis Staley, the chief of operations for the National Centers for Environmental Prediction.
The meals will join a stash of other food—chocolate, potato chips, and mug after mug of coffee—that meteorologists will rely on as they hunker down for days at the National Hurricane Center, which is in line to be slammed by the very storm they’re predicting. Over the last several days, some of the world’s top tropical meteorologists have entrusted their cats to close friends, made sure their friends are evacuating, and put their families on planes.
In Florida, over 5.5 million people have been placed under a mandatory evacuation. Nearly half of the gas stations in the southern part of the state are out of gas. Disney World and other theme parks in Orlando are closed. Highways heading north in Florida are clogged with people fleeing the path of what has been described as the most powerful hurricane in Atlantic history.