This Is Hurricane Irma’s Predicted Path (So Far)

September 5, 2017, 1:54 PM UTC

We’ve only begun to assess the damage from Hurricane Harvey, which swept across southeastern Texas last week in what appears to be one of the worst natural disasters in American history.

Yet another storm is already on the way.

On Tuesday Hurricane Irma, a new storm taking aim at the Caribbean, strengthened into a Category 5 storm with maximum winds of 185-miles per hour. Category 5 is the strongest on the Saffir–Simpson scale.

The latest forecasts have Irma on a path toward southeast Florida. Already, Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) has declared a state of emergency for all of the state’s 67 counties, with Miami-Dade and Monroe County (home to the Florida Keys) announcing partial evacuations for as early as Wednesday. “Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm, and Florida must be prepared,” Scott said in a statement.

South Carolina declared a state of emergency Wednesday after Hurricane Irma’s updated path projections showed the storm’s potential to impact the Palmetto state.

Florida managed to escape Harvey unscathed. Its last hurricane was Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall 11 months ago. And the last Category 5 Hurricane to hit Florida directly was Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago.

Some forecasters expect Irma to sweep across Puerto Rico, the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. Others expect it to travel up or across Florida. Some expect it to turn northward and sweep up the Eastern Seaboard toward South Carolina. At the moment the storm is too far away to tell—thought the National Weather Service is doing its best to plot a path, which you can see in the diagram above.

In the meantime, a hurricane warning has been issued for Caribbean islands including Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Barts as well as the British and U.S. Virgin Islands.

There are many potential effects of Irma making landfall, particularly so soon after Harvey. As J.P. Morgan economists wrote in the wake of Harvey, it goes beyond the obvious humanitarian concerns:

“Hurricanes can disrupt economic activity—which subtracts from GDP—and they can destroy capital—which over time will support the flow of GDP as the stock of capital is rebuilt. The disruptive aspect of hurricanes sometimes simply shifts activity from one period to another; this seems most likely the case for goods production and consumption. For example, any lost retail spending during the storm will probably be made up in later periods.”