Forecast

The storm reached its maximum strength at 185 mph on Wednesday and Thursday but has since weakened slightly. It briefly dropped to a Category 4 storm, but regained strength Friday evening and was making its way toward Florida as a Category 5, with winds of 160 mph. The hurricane is veering toward Florida’s west coast, but the whole state, at only 140 miles wide, is expected to feel its wrath.

Impacts

• Life-threatening wind impacts across the Florida Peninsula, regardless of where the center tracks. The storm is strong enough to tear roofs off buildings and snap trees and power poles.

• Life-threatening storm surge — 6 to 12 feet above the ground — on the South Florida coast and the Keys.

• Heavy rain will trigger inland flooding in Florida. As much as 20 inches of rain is expected in some areas, and as the storm moves north, it will take the flood threat with it.

• Power losses are expected to affect 9 million people in Florida, and some outages could take weeks to restore.

• Airports in Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale canceled at least 875 arriving and departing flights on Friday.

Questions

Q: When will Hurricane Irma make landfall in the U.S.?

A: Landfall is likely Sunday morning. The storm is tracking away from the Miami metropolitan area, but all of South Florida is at risk.

 

Q: When was the last time a major hurricane struck Florida?

A: The last “major” hurricane — registering as a Category 3 storm or stronger — to make landfall in Florida was Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. Wilma was also the last major hurricane to make landfall anywhere in the United States until Harvey struck Texas late last month.

 

Q: Is it rare to have back-to-back major hurricane landfalls in the U.S.?

A: Less than a week after Hurricane Harvey dissipated over Texas, another major hurricane threatens the U.S. coast. It is very rare to have back-to-back major hurricanes make landfall on the U.S. mainland.

According to the National Hurricane Center, it’s only happened twice before that we know of:

• With the Charleston Hurricane (Category 3) and Cheniere Caminada Hurricane (Category 4) in 1893.

• And in 2004, Hurricane Ivan made landfall on the Gulf Coast as a Category 3, then Hurricane Jeanne made landfall as a Category 3 on Hutchinson Island, Fla., north of Miami.