Hurricane Irma has been downgraded to a Category 4 storm, but it still threatens to bring deadly storm surges and winds to South Florida this weekend. For many in the region it dredges up memories of Hurricane Andrew, which in 1992 became the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
Here & Now‘s Robin Young talks with The Weather Channel hurricane specialist Bryan Norcross (@TWCBryan), who says Irma will be even worse than Andrew.
On comparing Irma to Andrew
“Andrew was small and strong, and Irma is big and mighty. So the peak, peak winds may not be as high. But most of the damage you saw in Andrew was not done by the peak, peak winds. It was done by the fact that you had an area of winds that were Category 3 to Category 5, and it was like a tornado that went through this 25-mile-wide area. Well, this is going to be a 125-mile-wide area with winds that will be above hurricane strength, and maybe even as much as 100 miles of Category 3, Category 4 winds. So this is just a much more encompassing storm.”
On the potential for Irma to get stronger when it hits Florida, and construction changes in South Florida
“Irma is likely to go through a little bit of a weakening phase here as it’s restructuring and is near the Cuban coast — which is really the Gulf Stream, which is extraordinarily warm — and that’s where Andrew intensified before it slammed into southern Miami-Dade County. So that’s why we think that Irma even has an opportunity to, however strong it is when it’s near Cuba, to get stronger when it hits Florida. It’s really not attributable to the fact that generally the world is warmer. It’s just that that’s an extremely warm part of the ocean right there, South Florida.
“As far as the building, it’s stunning. If anybody has not seen Miami over the last decade and the growth in southeast Florida, it’s unbelievable. But the good news is that in the Miami area, in the Fort Lauderdale area, the buildings are built to the strongest building code in the world for hurricanes.”
On what he says to people in Florida
“That this is an extreme hurricane threat for the entire state of Florida, except for the far western panhandle. You have to go back to when Florida was an entirely different place, and most of it was not developed and was not populated, to see a hurricane like this approaching the state. It’s not unprecedented, but it is unprecedented in modern times.”