By Caroline Mathews, National News Writer
Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm—the highest rating possible on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale—is already going down in history as the strongest storm in the Atlantic to date.
As of 11 P.M. Thursday night, the storm had already claimed ten lives throughout the Caribbean. The first island in the path of Irma, Barbuda, was hit with winds of up to 185 miles per hour. Heading further westward, the storm devastated St. Martin and Anguilla. While side-sweeping Puerto Rico, the storm has left 1.1 million customers without power due to the island’s fragile electrical grid, while residents of the island are expected to remain without power for months. Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority has announced that only 42 percent of the island’s hospitals are currently operational, through the use of temporary generators.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm’s trajectory forecasts landfall in southern Florida, where it may strike Miami this weekend – most likely Sunday morning. While the storm has shifted 20 miles, it has left Miami in “the worst possible position,” according to CNN meteorologist Tom Sater, as the storm surge and heavy rainfall will hit in the Miami area.
Mandatory evacuations have been issued to most counties in Southern Florida, with Gov. Rick Scott warning, “this is not a storm you can sit and wait through.” Shelters have been activated across the state to provide havens for Floridians who are unable to evacuate in a safe manner.
As of noon Friday, the eye of the storm was located off the northeast coast of Cuba, with maximum sustained winds reaching 150 miles per hour. Although the hurricane has weakened slightly, meteorologists expect its strength to fluctuate as it passes through warm waters near the Bahamas, and may very likely maintain Category 4 status as it approaches the Florida peninsula.
Unfortunately, Florida is all too familiar to the destruction left behind by hurricanes, and this will not be the first major tropical cyclone to threaten the coast. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew ravaged the southern coast, and hit especially hard in the Miami area. Andrew claimed the lives of sixty-one people and cost roughly $47.8 billion,* which at the time was the most expensive hurricane in United States’ history—Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy have surpassed this cost since.
However, it is predicted that if a storm of this magnitude, like Hurricane Irma, were to hit Miami again, the losses would be far more catastrophic. According to a recent analysis by Swiss Re, the expected cost of damage could jump as high as $100 billion. Central and South Florida have grown quickly since 1992, with a population increase of 6 million over the past quarter-century. The coastal areas’ real estate market has grown to include luxurious high-rises and condominiums, and the rapid development enjoyed by the state of Florida in recent years is extremely susceptible to damage and economic devastation.
Seton Hall has already launched an initiative for “Pirates Everywhere to Go Blue for Hurricane Relief” on September 13, to express solidarity with the victims of both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.
The University has partnered with Catholic Charities and will be channeling donations to the communities in most need. Donation centers will be available during business hours in the University Center and at the Pirate Pandemonium tent at the men’s soccer game. A special collection will also be taken at the Mass of the Holy Spirit.
*Adjusted for 2017 Comparison
Late breaking update: As the storm advances northward, its power is decreasing, but it has left large amounts of flooding and roughly 6 million without power in its wake.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 12th print edition.
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