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Experts Predict "Worst Case Scenario" For Florida When Irma Makes Landfall


After devastating the Caribbean, Hurricane Irma looks prepared to do serious damage to Florida.

The hurricane, which is already the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, is currently a Category 4, with winds reaching up to 185 miles per hour. While that's technically a downgrade from Category 5 conditions earlier this week, Florida residents are being told to expect the worst.

Already, Irma has done serious damage in the Caribbean. The island of Barbuda is in ruins, with 95% of the island's buildings destroyed according to its Prime Minister Gaston Browne. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens are without power on Puerto Rico, where it could be months before electricity is restored.

Florida's Governor Rick Scott warned the state's residents on Thursday that "regardless of which (Florida) coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate." Already mandatory evacuations are in place for the counties surrounding Miami and the Florida Keys, as well as Georgia's Atlantic coast.

But gridlock and gas shortages have delayed evacuations, and Florida airports will begin to suspend flights this Saturday, before Irma's expected landfall on Sunday morning. The latest projections show Irma is expected to pass directly over the Florida peninsula.

But what does that mean for people in Irma's path?

Remember that we can only make predictions about Irma's path, but so far the closer we get to landfall the more likely a direct hit over Florida gets.

The path of a hurricane can stray as much as 80 miles in 48 hours, but the window for Irma to pass anywhere but directly over Florida is closing fast. The best case scenario would be for Irma to pass east of Miami, so the weaker western side of the hurricane would hit the city.

That would be the difference between Category 1 winds and Category 2 winds, but so far predictions show Irma passing west of Miami. The storm's collision course with the city - and the rest of Florida - means it could be the costliest hurricane to ever hit America.

Winds up to 125 mph and as much as 16 inches of rain are expected on the Florida coast, and the storm has already created 20 foot waves in the Caribbean. To make matters worse, Irma is traveling over warm water as it heads for Florida, meaning it probably won't get much weaker.

Irma will be the strongest hurricane to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which killed 44 people and caused $40 billion in damages. As Governor Scott warned, "this is not a storm you can sit and wait through," and there are other storms that could follow Irma's path.

If you're in the path of the storm and can't evacuate, head for your local shelter.

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[H/T: FiveThirtyEight]

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