Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

As Irma Intensifies, "You've Never Experienced a Hurricane Like This"

With a "monster eye" and sustained winds that could reach 200pmh, Hurricane Irma causes dread ahead of expected landfall

Jon Queally

Responding to images of Hurricane Irma taken from space, one scientist at the National Hurricane Center remarked that it was "one of the most incredible things I have ever seen on satellite. "(Photo: NOAA/@NHC_Atlantic)

As the northern Caribbean islands brace for impact and evacuations are ordered in south Florida, Hurricane Irma became one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded on Tuesday afternoon with sustained winds of over 185mph and an intensity that was "redefining the rules" of what a storm in this part of the world could be.

"One of the most incredible things I have ever seen on satellite." —Eric Blake, National Hurricane Center

"Wow," tweeted meteorologist Eric Holthaus, "Hurricane is now expected to *exceed* the theoretical maximum intensity for a storm in its environment. Redefining the rules."

The National Hurricance Center, in an afternoon advisory, warned that Irma was a "potentially catastrophic category 5 hurricane" that would bring "life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards" to the Leeward Islands beginning on Tuesday night, with Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, the Dominic Republic, and Haiti also in danger in the days ahead.  The Florida Keys and southern coastal areas of the mainland, including Miami, could face a direct hit this weekend.

With NOAA providing images of the "monster eye" of the storm taken from space, Eric Blake, a scientist at the National Hurricane Center, remarked that it was "one of the most incredible things I have ever seen on satellite":

The National Weather Service urged everyone within Irma's potential path to prepare for an emergency as it provided updates on the "extremely dangerous" Category 5 storm:

According to a mid-afternoon update from the Weather Underground's Jeff Master:

Hurricane Irma intensified into an extremely dangerous high-end Category 5 storm with top sustained winds of 180 mph on Tuesday morning, putting it among the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever observed. Irma's winds are the most powerful ever measured in an Atlantic hurricane north of the Caribbean and east of the Gulf of Mexico. Measurements from Hurricane Hunter aircraft found peak winds of close to 180 mph, well above the 157-mph threshold for Category 5 strength. At 11:07 am EDT, a dropsonde in Irma's eye measured a central pressure of 927 millibars, 4 mb lower than the previous pass, so Irma is still strengthening.

Irma is poised to deliver a punishing blow to the northern Lesser Antilles Islands on Tuesday night and Wednesday. As of 11 am EDT Tuesday, Hurricane Warnings were in effect for the northern Leeward Islands, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Tropical storm-force winds are expected to spread into the Lesser Antilles on Tuesday night, reaching the Virgin Islands on Wednesday morning, Puerto Rico on Wednesday afternoon, and the Dominican Republic on Thursday morning (Figure 2). As of 8 am EDT, most of southern Florida, Cuba, and The Bahamas were in the 5-day cone of uncertainty for Irma.

Subsequent to Master's analysis, the storm did continue to intensify with its pressure continuing to drop and predictions that sustained winds could reach a jaw-dropping 200mph.

With the city of Houston and other communities along the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana just beginning to recover from the damage left by Hurricane Harvey last week, another major storm about to make landfall only serves to highlight the warnings from climate scientists and weather experts that powerful storms, fueled by warmer ocean temperatures, would become more frequent and more dangerous due to the effects of global warming.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Flint Residents 'Disgusted' After Court Throws Out Indictments of Top Officials

"It has become increasingly clear that the judicial system is not a viable option for a poor majority Black community facing injustice," said Flint Rising.

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders, Fetterman Urge Buttigieg to Fine Airlines Over Flight Cancellations

"The American people are sick of airlines ripping them off, canceling flights at the last minute, and delaying flights for hours on end," said the Vermont senator.

Jake Johnson ·


In Blow to Voting Rights, SCOTUS Saves Louisiana's Racially Rigged Electoral Map

"Black Louisianans deserve fair representation. The fight for racial justice and equality is far from over," vowed one civil rights group.

Brett Wilkins ·


Watching US With Horror, European Groups Push Leaders to Strengthen Abortion Rights

"This is an important moment for leaders across Europe who are committed to reproductive rights to lead by example and galvanize action in their own countries," said one campaigner.

Jake Johnson ·


Women Face Chaos, Torment as Abortion Clinics Shutter Across US

Clinic workers are attempting to get patients appointments out-of-state while women stockpile emergency contraception, fearing overcrowded clinics even in states that protect reproductive rights.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo