When Hurricane Katrina battered the US Gulf Coast and the Bahamas in 2005, it killed as many as 1,800 people, damaged 275,000 homes, cost the US at least $100 billion, and plunged 80% of New Orleans underwater.
Twelve years later, Hurricane Irma will most likely descend on the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, among other locations. The National Hurricane Center has issued warnings for these areas, where Irma could strike as early as Wednesday morning.
While Irma’s ultimate scale is still unknown, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has detected sustained winds of 185 mph.
As Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist, noted on Twitter, that’s at least 10 mph faster than the wind speeds Katrina packed at its peak.
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) September 5, 2017
Katrina, one of the five deadliest hurricanes in US history, started over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005. A Category 3 storm, it then headed west toward Mississippi, Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and southeastern Louisiana.
As of Tuesday morning, Irma is a Category 5 hurricane and one of the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.
The current hurricane-category system classifies storms based on wind speed, and it doesn’t account for rain or storm-surge levels. Even a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane can be catastrophic if it dumps enough rain on a city that did not adequately prepare for severe flooding.