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Hurricane Irma Strengthens, Florida and Caribbean Brace For Impact

Hurricane Irma Strengthens, Florida and Caribbean Brace For Impact
Hurricane Irma, a record Category 5 storm, is seen in this NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center image from GOES-16 satellite taken on September 5, 2017. NOAA NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER

Hurricane Irma made landfall early this morning in the Caribbean on the small island of Barbuda as a Category 5 hurricane packing record setting force on a path toward the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida.

Irma is the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded north of the Caribbean and east of the Gulf of Mexico according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. Official warnings referred to Irma’s “onslaught” in a statement that closed with: “May God protect us all.”

The size of the storm left hurricane and weather scientists speechless.

Irma strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane Tuesday with winds up to 185 mph. The storm is so strong it's shown up on seismometers in the Caribbean -- equipment designed to measure earthquakes.

Florida Governor Rick Scott urged Floridians to heed mandatory evacuation orders. Florida Keys officials said they'll begin for the small island chain's 80,000 population and U.S. Navy has ordered more than 5,000 military personnel, contractors and their families to be evacuated from Naval Air Station Key West.

Their preparations seem to be warranted according to weather scientists. Predictions for the level of devastation exceed anything the area has seen in the past.

In Barbuda, the island’s police station roof was ripped off, forcing officers to seek refuge in the fire station and an official shelter at the community center. Irma also knocked out communication between islands. Midcie Francis of the National Office of Disaster Services confirmed damage to several homes, but said it was "too early to assess the extent of damage".

President Donald Trump declared emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands in advance of Irma's arrival.

Warm water fuels hurricanes and Irma is moving over water that is 1 Celsius warmer than normal. Despite what President Trump and his appointees say, scientific evidence is mounting that climate change is real, caused by humans, and will cause real impacts on our daily lives.

First Hurricane Harvey's record-breaking rainfall and now Hurricane Irma's fast progression to the most severe storm designation, Category 5, and the most severe storm ever recorded in the region. Climate change means more aberrant weather. What tragedy will occur before skeptics realize climate change is real? Unfortunately, only time and the weather will tell.