(WMC) - Hurricane Irma is considered one of the strongest hurricanes on record and it continues to maintain its strength as it barrels towards the U.S. mainland. Irma moved along the coast of Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a category 5 hurricane, and it currently still has sustained winds of 180 mph.
Irma will move into south Florida by early Sunday morning as a category 4 hurricane. Winds will still be around 150 mph when it arrives near Miami. It will weaken to a category 3 as it moves along the east coast of Florida, potentially impacting cities like Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach. Heavy rain, gusty winds and beach erosion are likely in southeast Florida on Saturday night into Sunday.
After leaving Florida, Irma will have a brief time over the open sea before moving into South Carolina near the Georgia border. There is still some uncertainty about the exact location of landfall there, but residents in Savannah and Charleston should prepare for impacts. This would likely arrive in Georgia and South Carolina on Monday night as a category 1 hurricane.
Hurricane Irma reached category 5 strength Tuesday morning with 180 mph winds and by the afternoon, wind speeds had increased to 185 mph, putting it in the top five strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded. Philip Klotzbach, meteorologist and research scientist specializing in Atlantic basin storms at the University of Colorado, put together some notable facts about this potent storm.
- 185 mph max winds – tied with Florida Keys (1935), Gilbert (1988) and Wilma (2005) for second strongest max winds of all time in Atlantic hurricane. Allen had max winds of 190 mph in 1980
- 185 mph max winds – making it the strongest storm on record to impact the Leeward Islands, defined as 15-19°N, 65-60°W for this calculation. Okeechobee Hurricane (1928) and David (1979) were previous strongest at 160 mph
- 185 mph max winds – the strongest storm to exist outside of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico on record
- 916 mb central pressure – lowest since Dean (2007) and tied for 11th lowest in satellite era (since 1966)
- First Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic since Matthew (2016) and first Category 5 hurricane in the tropical Atlantic (7.5-20°N, 60-20°W) since Hugo (1989)
- Generated the most Accumulated Cyclone Energy by a tropical cyclone on record in the tropical Atlantic (7.5-20°N, 60-20°W)
- Generated more Accumulated Cyclone Energy than the first eight named storms of the Atlantic hurricane season (Arlene-Harvey) combined
- Generated 3.75 major hurricane days in the tropical Atlantic (7.5-20°N, 60-20°W) – trailing only Luis (1995) for major hurricane days in the tropical Atlantic