Hurricane Irma: A look into her eye

Today, I am taking a break from my scheduled posts to talk about something incredibly serious: Hurricane Irma, one of the, if not the, strongest storms to ever form in the Atlantic Ocean.

When classifying hurricanes, the National Hurricane Center uses what is known as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This scale sorts hurricanes into five distinct categories based on wind speed, which are as follows:

Category 1

Wind speed: 74-95 mph

Very dangerous winds will produce some damage. Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.

Category 2

Wind speed: 96-110 mph

Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage. Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.

Category 3 (major hurricane)

Wind speed: 111-129 mph

Devastating damage will occur. Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.

Category 4 (major hurricane)

Wind speed: 130-156 mph

Catastrophic damage will occur. Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Category 5 (major hurricane)

Wind speed: 157 mph or higher

Catastrophic damage will occur. A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Hurricane Irma is listed as a category 5 hurricane, with winds exceeding 180 mph. You don’t need to be a math mathematician to know that is well above the 157 mph threshold of a category 5 hurricane.

Wednesday morning, this mammoth of a storm wreaked havoc on the northern Caribbean islands, killing two people so far. It is currently headed to the northern Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida. I can’t imagine the devastation that those people are currently facing and preparing to face.

At the center of all hurricanes, including Irma, is the eye. When you are inside of the eye of the hurricane, you almost forget the destruction that, literally, surrounds you. Inside the eye, the winds are mostly light, and you may even see clear skies; however, the eyewall is located just outside of the eye, and consists of the most destructive winds of the hurricane.

Dr. Matt Sitkowski of The Weather Channel explains why the eye of a hurricane can appear so clear: “In the eye, air sinks and warms. This warming helps to lower the storm’s pressure and will also make the atmosphere more dry. This drying causes the clouds to evaporate, making the eye visible from space.”

The video below actually shows someone flying into the eye of Hurricane Irma. It’s chilling.

I don’t know about you, but when he reached the eye, chills went down my spine. It’s unbelievable to me that even in one of the most destructive forces of nature, there is beauty. There is a calm in the midst of the storm that reminds people the storm will eventually end, but then there is the aftermath.

Please, whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or Atheist, keep these people in your thoughts and prayers. They are facing catastrophic circumstances, and those that survive will struggle to live normally for months. Please do whatever you can to donate—money, blood, food, water, anything—these people will need it more than you know.


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