Hurricane Irma is currently one of three active hurricanes. But Irma is a monster which some weather experts are saying could be the most expensive hurricane in American history. This means it will outdo Hurricane Harvey which destroyed many areas in South Texas last week. That storm is estimated to cost $190 billion by the time cleanup and repair is all complete.
On Thursday morning, meteorologist Chesley McNeil explained just what causes hurricanes like Irma and how they grow to be so dangerous.
He explained that most hurricanes start off as a regular thunderstorm off the coast of Africa. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Ocean’s water is very warm during the summer, reaching up to 80 degrees. As the thunderstorms roll off the coast, they began to intensify and are “fueled” by the warm water and the atmospheric pressure over the Atlantic.
The high pressure is additionally fueled by winds that push the system to the east. Eventually, the system gains momentum as a full-blown hurricane.
The National Hurricane Center has said that Irma originated just west of Guinea-Bissau, Africa, on Aug. 27, as a small storm with winds of only 29 mph.
Picking up the warm water over the Atlantic, it turned into a Category 2 storm in only 24 hours and became a Category 5 storm on Sep. 5.
As of Wednesday evening, Irma had maintained 185 mph maximum winds for 24 hours, setting a record as the longest period an Atlantic hurricane has maintained that intensity.
USA Today reported that only three times in U.S. history has a hurricane maintained Category 5 status by the time it hits land.
Irma has turned into a monster, going on record as the strongest storm to ever form over the Atlantic. It’s also important to note that September 10 is “peak day” for the hurricane season.
The following graphics were shared by the Daily Mail, detailing how hurricanes gain strength.
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2pm UPDATE on HURRICANE IRMA from National Hurricane Center