The past few weeks have been bad when it comes to hurricanes. First, Harvey slammed Texas, flooding vast areas, causing untold amounts of damage, and killing at least 70 people. Now, Irma is threatening the coastline after making landfall as a Category 4 storm in the Caribbean. At least 21 people are dead, and rebuilding will take years. The tiny island of Barbuda was completely devastated. The Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, estimated that 95% of the island was completely obliterated.
“What I saw was heart-wrenching, absolutely devastating. The extent of the destruction is unprecedented,” Prime Minister Browne told local news station ABS Television. “Barbuda right now is literally rubble…. In fact, I’m of the view that, as it stands now, Barbuda is barely habitable.”
Florida residents are battening down the hatches in preparation for Irma’s arrival, and some 15 million people have been told to evacuate. Storm surges of up to 15 feet are expected, and forecasters are calling for the worst. “I have little doubt Irma will go down as one of the most infamous in Atlantic hurricane history,” wrote Eric Blake, a scientist for the National Hurricane Center.
But Harvey and Irma aren’t all of it. The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) recently issued advisories on Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Jose, and Hurricane Katia, all three of which could make landfall at the same time. Hurricane scientists are stunned. “Three hurricanes threatening land simultaneously in the W Atlantic Basin,” Blake wrote on Twitter. “Never seen anything like this in the modern record.”
As Irma smashes its way towards the US coastline, Hurricane Jose, and Hurricane Katia are spinning close in its wake. Katia, to the east of Irma, is powering up in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to gain steam as it moves towards the coast. Hurricane Jose is right Irma, about 1,060 kilometers east of the Lesser Antilles–and it looks like it could make its way through the Caribbean, which would be even more devastating after Irma’s wrath.
While three simultaneous hurricanes in the Atlantic isn’t unprecedented–in 2010 when Hurricanes Karl, Igor and Julia all lined up–the size and strength of Irma, Jose, and Katia are something that no one has ever seen.
Climate forecasters from the gutted US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned that this year would be an exceptionally bad one because of rising sea temperatures, a miniature-sized version of El Nino, and an odd lack of high altitude winds which generally slow a hurricane’s path.